The U.S. Justice Department reached an agreement with Newark, N.J., to allow a federal monitor to watch over a municipal police force that it found had repeatedly violated the rights of its citizens, especially blacks, in the state's largest city, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman announced the results of a three-year review of the Newark Police Department, saying, “the people of Newark deserve to be safe, and so do the thousands who come here. They also need to know the police protecting them are doing that important — and often dangerous — work while respecting their constitutional rights.” Newark will become the first municipal police agency in state history to operate under a federal watchdog and the 13th in the nation.
A review led by the Justice Department Civil Rights Division found that police failed to provide sufficient constitutional reason for about 75 percent of pedestrian stops; 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. James Stewart Jr., the head of Newark's police union, said the federal monitor could prove pivotal in helping the department reform its internal procedures and help break bad habits. “I came on the job in 1995, I think that was the last training I received,” Stewart said. “If we have bad habits, I could see it being rampant throughout the department, because it just goes from one class to the next.”