On Wednesday, federal officials announced a settlement agreement with the Newark Police Department, following a three-year investigation that found, amongst other things, that officers failed to provide sufficient reason for nearly 75 percent of pedestrian stops.
“The department is challenged in fundamental ways, and has engaged in a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing in a broad range of areas,” Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, said in a statement. “And it is also clear that the Police Department’s relationship with the people of the city has suffered dramatically from the combination of those practices. Community trust has deteriorated, and that, in turn, has compromised the effectiveness of the department.”
Pending a judge’s approval, the agreement would require officers to wear cameras, install them in police vehicles, and impose striter rules on use of force and search-and-seizure practices. It would also create a civilian oversight committee, which the New York Times reports the city has already begun to do.
The attorney, who graduated Morgan State University in 1979 and received his law degree from Columbia in 1982, has worked in both the private and public sectors. He served in several high level positions in the attorney general’s office before being sworn in as New Jersey’s first African American, and 54th overall, Attorney General in 2003.
During his nearly three-year tenure in the role, he was known for going after large companies in consumer and insurance fraud cases. He oversaw the construction of a state-of-the-art forensic and computer crime lab in Mercer County, and under his direction the state was lauded as one of the most prepared for a bioterrorist attack.
He was in office during the federal monitor of the New Jersey State Police, and in his final official act, created a permanent Office of State Police Affairs in an attempt to ensure that the department would continue to comply with racial profiling reforms.
The investigation’s findings were published shortly after Mayor Ras Baraka took office. “We look at it as an opportunity,” the mayor of New Jersey’s largest city. The reforms “will get Newark to where it needs to be.”