Newark mayoral candidates spar over ACLU report on police stop-frisk policy

By David Giambusso/The Star-Ledger
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on February 25, 2014

Shavar Jeffries, left, is now essentially in a two-way race with South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka to be the next mayor of Newark.


NEWARK — Candidates in Newark's mayoral race took shots at the city police department as well as each other in the wake of a report issued Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey indicating police officers disproportionately "stop and frisk" black residents.

South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka and former assistant state Attornery General Shavar Jeffries, the main contenders in the May 13 battle for City Hall, both said the report showed that police officers need to focus less on race and more on criminal behavior.

"The top line data is troubling," Jeffries said. "It suggests that there are some things we have to look at in terms of making sure that our police are being targeted and effective in terms of who we question. When you have limited police resources it's even that much more important."

Jeffries quickly pivoted to attack Baraka.

"We have to be targeting people base upon their criminal activity including, frankly, the gang leaders and murderers that Councilman Baraka is apologizing for," Jeffries said.

In December, The Star-Ledger reported that Baraka wrote letters used in motions requesting leniency for a high-level Newark gang leader.

Baraka, who in 2004 brokered a temporary citywide ceasefire, dismissed Jeffries' attack as "desperate" and said the ACLU report was a vindication of his long-held beliefs that violence was a public health issue, exacerbated by mistrust between the police and the neighborhoods they patrol.

“This vindicates my long struggle to replace racial discrimination with targeting criminals and patterns of crime," Baraka said. "Like Bill De Blasio, when I am mayor, I will move quickly against race-based stop and frisk."

Baraka then lit into Jeffries.

"It is truly sad when a desperate candidate refers to my strategy of destroying gangs while rehabilitating gang members as “apologizing” for criminals," Baraka said. "My strategy has been endorsed by President Obama’s Justice Department and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. It’s time to stop talking about violence and to start doing something about it."

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