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Justice Dept. finds policing in Newark, N.J., racially biased

Newark, N.J., Mayor Ras Baraka called the agreement with the Justice Department an opportunity to transform the police department.
By Frances Burns   |   July 22, 2014 at 5:20 PM   |   Comments

NEWARK, N.J., July 22 (UPI) -- Police in Newark, N.J., have a pattern of unconstitutional and racially biased pedestrian stops, the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman announced an agreement with New Jersey's largest city for a federal monitor. He said a two-year review of policing practices found that 75 percent of police stops of pedestrians had no valid constitutional reason and that 85 percent of the targets were black in a city where 54 percent of the population is black.

"The people of Newark deserve to be safe, and so do the thousands who come here to work, to learn, and to take advantage of all the city has to offer," Fishman said. "They also need to know the police protecting them are doing that important -- and often dangerous -- work while respecting their constitutional rights."

The review also found that 20 percent of the reported use of force by police officers was unconstitutional and that there have been reports of money and other items being stolen from detainees.

Mayor Ras Baraka, who took office July 1, welcomed the report and the federal monitor.

"We are excited that we have the ability to transform the Newark police department," Baraka said. "We are excited because we believe that the transformation of the Newark police department leads to transformation of our city, that we have long been waiting for."

The relationship between the Newark police and the city's black community have long been troubled. In 1967, a false rumor that a black cabdriver had been killed in police custody set off six days of rioting that left 26 people dead.

The Newark department is the first in New Jersey to be placed under a federal monitor. Twelve other police departments are operating under agreements with the Justice Department.

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