After months of interviewing officers, brass, city hall officials, and union representatives, the Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the Newark Police Department. This comes eight months after the ACLU alleged civil rights abuses by the department, particularly in their handling of misconduct among officers.
The ACLU documented 261 complaints to the NPD in 2008 and 2009. These complaints involved excessive force, improper arrest, entry, or search, and differential treatment. Of all 261, only one complaint was sustained by department officials. In addition, the Star Ledger found that only 1/10 of all cases were reported to the state Attorney General as state law dictates.
Though the Mayor initially called the ACLU’s report a “distortion of facts”, the DOJ obviously has reason to believe otherwise.
People must believe that police officers will be held accountable when they abuse their power. If only a fraction of complaints are investigated and only one of those results in consequences, it’s not very reassuring for the people of Newark, a city already plagued by crime.
The DOJ has many options after an investigation. They could simply issue recommendations and follow up. But, if the problem is seen as widespread and not easily solved with simple recommendations, they could issue what’s called a “consent decree” and take on a more hands-on oversight role.
Of course police officials don’t see this as good news as everything will be on the table, and everything will be scrutinized. But when there is a large scale problem within a police department, such intervention is often necessary.
The police hold a great deal of power. Sometimes individual officers don’t fully understand the limits on this power or they cross those lines anyways, hoping you don’t know the limits. When such action occurs, it’s important that allegations of misconduct be taken seriously and also that you have an aggressive defense attorney to help you fight any resulting criminal charges.
Whether you were wronged by the local police or if you are simply facing charges and don’t know what to do—I may be able to help. Contact my NJ law offices today for a free consultation on your case.