Citing complaints, lawsuits, and internal investigations over the past several years, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) is asking for the federal government to step in an investigate the Newark Police Department. They claim the NPD is incapable of handling its own problems and think an intervention is necessary.
According to the Star Ledger, although numerous (261) complaints were filed with the department over 2008-2009 year, only one was sustained. Complaints included accusations of misconduct, evidence tampering, and excessive force. In the past few years, the ACLU claims 11 officers have faced criminal charges alone.
Proof, they allege, of the broken system lies in the departments inability to police and correct itself. Although the national average of police department’s sustaining of excessive force accusations stands at 8%, Newark didn’t sustain any of their 195 complaints. This means that none of the complaints against the NPD for excessive force were found to have merit.
Although anything’s possible, it seems highly unlikely that the people of Newark are making up police complaints and more probable that the department may be having difficulty with their internal handling of the accusations.
Newark officials are not happy about the ACLU petition and state that the organization is only giving a partial picture. They claim that they are working to resolve any matters within the department but that these sort of systematic changes take time. They point to an overall crime drop of 21% since 2006 as evidence that they are doing at least some things right.
Now that the petition has been filed, the U.S. Department of Justice decides if Newark truly needs the kind of help the ACLU believes they do. If the federal government does decide to step in, it would likely take more investigations and oversight before significant changes are made.
As a citizen of Newark, or any other town in New Jersey, you want to believe that the police are there to maintain order and protect you. Police abuse of power and brutality is what causes much of the animosity that so many people have towards law enforcement. Perhaps it’s because they have experienced something first hand or because they have heard stories about misconduct by law enforcement.