The city council of Newark, New Jersey's
largest city, voted on Wednesday to implement a civilian review board to help provide oversight of its police department.
The Newark PD has already been operating under a federal consent decree since late 2015, following a three-year-long investigation by the Justice Department which found what Udi Ofer of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey described as "systemic problems that have led to widespread civil rights violations."
The DOJ's review indicates approximately 75 percent of pedestrian stops were made without "sufficient constitutional reason" and according to Vernal Coleman of NJ.com:
Blacks make up nearly 54 percent of the city's population but account for 85 percent of pedestrian stops and nearly 80 percent of arrests; more than 20 percent of officers' reported use of force was unreasonable and violated the constitution; and officers assigned to narcotics and gang units and prisoner-processing stole from those they arrested.
The Associated Press reported that "only one excessive force complaint against police was upheld over a six-year period" and that in addition to unconstitutional stops, police "stole property from civilians."
Newark's police union, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 12 isn't taking the news lightly and has vowed to challenge the imposition of a civilian review board in court. The AP quotes union president James Stewart, Jr as writing in an email:
We believe we already have civilian oversight, and that is in the form of our public safety director…We also do not believe a civilian body has subpoena powers under the New Jersey Constitution. We will go to court and lay our cards on the table and see who is right.
Earlier this week, I wrote about the LAPD's union pushing back on efforts to reform use-of-force policies and emphasize de-escalation in training, as well as the NYPD's union releasing a report which posits that morale is at an all-time low.
You can read more Reason coverage of police unions here.