Newark — The ACLU of New Jersey today praised the verdict against five Orange City police officers convicted of conspiring to deprive Earl Faison of his civil rights when he was killed in police custody on April 19, 1999.
“An innocent man was killed by the very people responsible for protecting him. We are pleased that the jury appropriately blamed the officers who beat, kicked and pepper-sprayed Mr. Faison” said Deborah Jacobs, ACLU-NJ Executive Director. “However, it is a shame that the State of New Jersey refused to hold the officers criminally responsible. Until the State of New Jersey shares its citizens' commitment to fair and humane policing, and holds police who commit criminal acts criminally responsible, we will continue to see racism and abuse in New Jersey's police practices,” Jacobs added.
The ACLU-NJ, which is currently challenging the practice of racial profiling on the New Jersey Turnpike in a class-action lawsuit against the State, has continually expressed frustration that State officials consistently deny allegations of racism and abuse by police, until their own records prove otherwise. And, even with the release of law enforcement documents that prove allegations of racism and abuse by police, the State's leadership does not express outrage at the suffering of innocent people at the hands of police.
“There is little evidence that the State values police professionalism. Not only do officials fail to consider serious reforms, but they rarely acknowledge a problem that has been brought to their attention by the people of New Jersey or even by police officers themselves,” said Jacobs. The ACLU-NJ has proposed a 10-point plan to improve policing in New Jersey and insists that steps like forming a citizen review panel, providing greater training opportunities for police, and engaging outside auditors to review police practices are necessary to ensure the safety and equal treatment of people in New Jersey.
“Why do we have to wait for the federal government, which has resources to file civil charges in only the most egregious cases, to come in and hold New Jersey cops responsible for such crimes?” asked Jacobs. “Why isn't the State taking the lead to ensure police professionalism and the safety of those who have interactions with police?”
The ACLU-NJ has urged Attorney General John Farmer to take the lead in holding police responsible for criminal acts. However, when the ACLU-NJ wrote to the Attorney General in August requesting an explanation for the State's failure to bring criminal charges against the officers who killed Earl Faison, Mr. Farmer claimed that he did not have sufficient evidence for criminal charges. Mr. Farmer made this claim despite the fact that he knew of the same allegations that ultimately formed the grounds for the federal convictions.
The ACLU-NJ does not support further criminal charges for the cops who murdered Mr. Faison at this stage because trying the officers a second time in a different jurisdiction would constitute a violation of the constitutional principle of double jeopardy which should prohibit people from being tried twice for the same crime.