75 Percent of Newark Police Stops Are Unconstitutional

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 22 2014 9:14 PM

75 Percent of Newark Police Stops Are Unconstitutional

490146259-man-walks-by-a-police-car-in-downtown-on-may-13-2014-in
Report finds Newark police are out of control.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Department of Justice released its findings from a three-year federal investigation into just how bad the Newark police force is on Tuesday—and the picture it painted of New Jersey’s largest police department isn’t pretty. “Newark police engaged in the excessive use of force, routinely stopped people on the street for no legitimate reason and regularly stole property from civilians,” the Associated Press reports. Just how often were those instances of abuse? “Police failed to provide a sufficient constitutional reason for about 75 percent of pedestrian stops,” according to the Star-Ledger. “Eighty-five percent of those stopped were black in a city where blacks make up 54 percent of the population.” The report also found officers resorted to force unconstitutionally, or unnecessarily, 20 percent of the time.

The investigation was launched in 2011 following a complaint filed by the ACLU about the city’s policing tactics. As a result, the city’s police department will now be placed under federal supervision to ensure changes are made. “Under the agreement, the city has promised to train its officers on how to carry out stops and arrests that are constitutionally sound and develop improvements to policies for stopping, arresting and using force on citizens,” according to the Star-Ledger.

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Here’s more of the troubling DOJ findings from the AP:

…the DOJ investigation found that over a six-year period, only one excessive force complaint was upheld by the police department, a figure [U.S. Attorney Paul] Fishman called "stunningly low" for a police department of its size...Theft by police department personnel is "more than an aberration limited to a few officers or incidents within the NPD," the report concluded. The problem is particularly acute in the specialized units such as narcotics, gangs and prisoner processing. The department was aware of the problem but still didn't sustain any theft complaints against the officers with the highest number of incidents, the report found.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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