“This isn’t a ‘gotcha’ game; we aren’t trying to fail the police department.” So said Peter Harvey, the federally-appointed independent monitor of the Newark Police Department at a meet-and-greet yesterday at Rutgers Newark.
Harvey, a former federal prosecutor, former state attorney general, and former monitor of the New Jersey State Police, said, “The goal here is to provide better safety and better customer service to the people who live in this city. Where we have better educated police officers, and where we have better trained police officers, we get a partnership with the community that makes the community safer. Honest to God, there are some officers who honestly do not know the law.”
He and his team of legal and criminal justice experts, international police monitors, and former law enforcement executives have a five-year mission to reform the police department.
Two years ago, the Justice Department found 75 percent of the stops by Newark police were unconstitutional, officers routinely used excessive force, and the internal affairs department rarely ruled against the officers.
Harvey must present a monitoring plan by early next year. Some of it will cover items the city’s new public safety director already is addressing: technological upgrades, dashboard and officer body cameras, re-training, and drawing on best practices from other police departments. Harvey said Newark also must have an early warning system for abusive officers.
Newark is paying the nearly $7.5 million cost of the monitoring. “You’re either going to pay it in judgments from juries who say you shouldn’t have done that, or you’re going to pay it proactively to stop those kinds of incidents from happening,” said Harvey.
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