The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking a federal investigation of the Newark Police Department, saying it routinely violates residents’ civil rights through excessive force and false arrests, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. Citing dozens of lawsuits and years of internal affairs statistics, the ACLU says the department is incapable of policing itself. It says records show that out of 261 complaints in 2008 and 2009 involving excessive force, differential treatment or improper arrest, entry or search, only one was sustained. One officer has faced 62 internal affairs investigations in an almost 14-year career; none have been sustained.
Deborah Jacobs, executive director the ACLU in New Jersey, said the petition is the first step in a process she hopes will end with the same kind of consent decree and federal oversight imposed on the State Police a decade ago in response to the racial profiling scandal. Top Newark officials said the ACLU petition was undermining progress in the city. “The city of Newark was extremely disappointed when it reviewed the ACLU's petition,” said Julian Neals, the city's top lawyer. “The city feels that the ACLU petition is frivolous and submitted in bad faith.” Mayor Cory Booker was angered by the ACLU petition. “It's casting unnecessary aspersions on the police department through the distortion of facts,” he said. He said the city had tried to cooperate with the agency on numerous issues but now feels the ACLU has unfairly shut down that relationship. Booker said the ACLU is promoting “negative stereotypes” of Newark and not giving the city credit for its progress.