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Federal monitor gives Newark police mixed grades in report

January 18, 2019 - 5:08 pm

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Newark's police department is making significant progress in engaging with the communities it serves but needs to improve its handling of civilian complaints and investigations of officer misconduct, according to the latest report by a federal monitor.

The department has been under federal oversight since 2016 after a three-year Justice Department probe found widespread constitutional violations and lax oversight.

The quarterly report released Wednesday said monitors were encouraged by the department's efforts to obtain community comment on its draft policies and training materials through forums, the internet and small group meetings.

"The protocol has started to shift the community's role from concerned observers to active participants in the Consent Decree process and NPD's reforms,'' monitor Peter Harvey wrote.

The report found improvements needed in other areas.

It said the department must make it easier for civilians to file complaints, which are now mostly handled in-person at police precincts which are ``ill-suited for discussion of sensitive subjects.''

It also criticized the department's classification of complaints alleging misconduct into broad categories. For example, a woman's allegation that plainclothes officers had stolen drugs from her, took her into a van and threatened to deport her if she did not become an informant was filed under the heading ``Conduct.''

The report also found internal affairs interviews with officers weren't sufficiently thorough. In one case, an officer who had fired on a suspect who later turned out to be unarmed was interviewed for a total of six minutes.

A message seeking comment was left for a spokesman for the police department.