Newark rounds up support to strengthen police review

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said the city will appeal last week’s state Supreme Court ruling that weakened the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board. The 6-1 decision, with the lone dissenter and chief justice agreeing with Newark, upheld the board’s creation but took away the subpoena power to compel officer testimony and compel turnover of documents

“You all know I got to church every Sunday and I don’t say bad words, but I’m mad as hell,” said Newark City Council President Mildred Crump.

The decision was a victory for Newark’s Fraternal Order of Police.

“You can have any kind of oversight board you want to implement, but you just can’t give any group of people subpoena powers,” said James Stewart, president of the Newark Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 12.

The mayor says the city’s seeking support for state legislation that would give subpoena power to any civilian review board in the state. It found some with the mayors of Orange and Jersey City.

“We need governor and we need the attorney general to be clear and unequivocal that they want a civilian complaint review board,” said Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.

“Every investigative body that is in the law in New Jersey has subpoena power,” said Dwayne Warren, the mayor or Orange.

In Wisconsin on Sunday, an officer shot Jacob Blake in the back “multiple” times, paralyzing him in a dispute that’s sparked outrage once again.

Baraka insists it’s another strike against trusting police and it’s more ammunition for civilian review of police behavior and he called on the “good cops” to stand with the city and its residents.

“I just want to tell you that this has never been about black and blue. It’s always been about right and wrong,” Baraka said. “It’s always been about good and evil, that you can’t stand by and knowingly watch people break the law, abuse people’s constitutional rights.”

The CCRB is hearing cases currently and so is the Internal Affairs division. The city makes it clear, because of the Internal Affairs division’s history, that it wants citizens to file complaints with the CCRB.

“The Department of Justice stated that the Internal Affairs could not, did not and would not protect the people of this community,” Baraka said.

“While we recognize and appreciate what the Internal Affairs department is doing now, you got to build the trust,” said Kenyatta Stewart, Newark corporation counsel. “If you have an issue with law enforcement in the city of Newark, you need to go to the CCRB.”

“The role of the Fraternal Order of Police is to be here to protect our members. We have disciplinary process in place, and nowhere in that process is anything mentioned about a civilian complaint review board mentioned,” James Stewart said.

While the city plans to take the CCRB fight back to court, activists are turning their attention to Trenton and the looming tug of war over legislation in favor of subpoena powers.

“No supreme court decision is going to turn us around,” said Larry Hamm with the People’s Organization for Progress.