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Federal monitor's report gives Newark police mixed grades

October 16, 2018 - 5:34 pm

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Newark's police department deserves praise for increasing its use of body cameras and for adopting new policies but is lagging in training, community engagement and responding to domestic violence claims, according to a two-year status report by a federal monitor overseeing the department.

The NPD has made ``significant progress'' in developing policies as required under its federal consent decree but still lacks personnel with expertise in core areas to bring about lasting change, monitor Peter Harvey wrote. Harvey is a former New Jersey attorney general.

The department was placed under federal oversight in 2016 after a lengthy probe by the Department of Justice found Newark officers frequently used excessive force and made unconstitutional street stops, engaged in rampant property theft and acted with little oversight.

The two-year status report released Friday praised the department for using body cameras for officers and in vehicles. The department has equipped 427 body-worn cameras and 65 vehicle-mounted cameras.

Newark's signature achievement has been to develop new or revised policies in more than a dozen key areas including the proper use of force, bias-free policing, stops, searches, arrests and internal affairs investigations, according to the report.

These "capture modern constitutional policing concepts and will serve as models for other police departments in New Jersey and, perhaps, around the country,'' Harvey wrote.

However, implementing the new policies is hampered by a lack of personnel with expertise in core areas, particularly in the areas of data collection, training and responding to domestic violence calls, according to the report.

The NPD "has not been able to identify, produce, or analyze most essential data about its daily policing activities,'' the report concluded, noting the department doesn't have enough IT personnel to analyze data, leading to inadequate supervisory review.

The department's domestic violence response was characterized as a source of concern to monitors. Victims, particularly those with limited English skills, often encountered "short-tempered or impatient 911 call-takers'' and unsympathetic officers.

The problem was particularly pronounced when the alleged perpetrator was an NPD employee. Those cases, the report found, invariably resulted in findings that the complaints were unsubstantiated.

"While NPD has a clear policy prohibiting officer-initiated domestic violence, it does not appear to be following it,'' the report concluded.

Through a spokesman, the department didn't immediately comment Tuesday on the report.