Last October the ACLU filed a petition requesting the Department of Justice to take control of the Newark Police Department, stating the Department was unable to police itself. According to the Star-Ledger, the feds may be looking into the petition, having reportedly interviewed several players in the local justice system.
The DOJ hasn’t made any official announcement about an investigation but three civil rights leaders, a city councilman, presidents of the local police union, and one defense attorney who frequently represents officers have all been questioned in recent months.
At issue- the Department’s failure to sustain accusations of excessive force. Of 261 of the “most serious complaints” in a 2 ½ year period, only one was sustained, raising suspicions that the department may not be taking allegations seriously.
A U.S. Attorney has also met with the Police Director to discuss the ACLU petition, though neither has commented on the developing case. However, city officials state they are completely capable of managing the department and don’t need federal intervention.
It seems the DOJ is investigating cases of misconduct dating back to the 1980s, questioning victims and officials involved. One organization, the People’s Organization for Progress, is said to have given the federal agents 8 specific cases where inmates were seriously hurt or killed while in the custody of Newark police.
It’s believed the investigation could take up to a year, considering all of the cases the department has to sift through. Then they would make a decision as to whether federal oversight of the local police was necessary.
It’s understandable why local officials don’t want federal intervention—it’s a pain. Having someone stare over your shoulder and make recommendations can be nerve-wracking to say the least.
The Department of Justice doesn’t take over a locality’s police department on a whim either. If they do determine oversight is necessary, it’s not because they want to play big brother—it’s because the evidence showed the Newark PD couldn’t handle meting out justice to its own in a reputable manner.
Accusing the police of excessive force or even unlawful arrest can seem extremely frightening for a member of the public. If they do come forward with such accusations, they should be able to trust the local authorities to take their claims seriously and investigate them with absolute fairness and impartiality.
If you think you’ve been wrongly accused or mistreated by investigators in your criminal case, it could affect the outcome of your criminal charges. Contact our offices today if you’re facing charges, to receive a free consultation.