On June 18, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey issued an opinion affirming the powers of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) in Newark, reversing in part a previous lower court decision. Appearing as a friend of the court in the case Fraternal Order of Police, Newark Lodge No. 12 v. the City of Newark, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) and Newark Communities for Accountable Policing (N-CAP) continued the decades-long fight for a CCRB to increase accountability of the Newark Police Department (NPD).
The court delivered a resounding affirmation of the CCRB and the legality of the ordinance outlining its creation.
In 2010, the ACLU-NJ petitioned the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the NPD for rampant civil rights violations. Following a three-year investigation, the DOJ issued a report revealing widespread civil rights violations, unconstitutional policing practices, excessive brutality, and an absence of accountability throughout the operations of the NPD.
For more than 50 years, Newark communities have called for police accountability through a civilian oversight board. In the wake of the DOJ investigation and the court-ordered consent decree, N-CAP and the ACLU-NJ worked with the City of Newark to enact one of the most progressive CCRB laws in the country. This week, the court ruled that the City was empowered to create a CCRB and that the CCRB could function as designed with two exceptions, one regarding confidentiality and another regarding the police chief’s own power to investigate.
ACLU-NJ Legal Director Jeanne LoCicero issued the following statement:
"This is a historic victory. Armed with subpoena power and empaneled by community members, Newark’s Civilian Complaint Review Board will be able to make police accountability a reality for New Jersey’s largest city.
"With Newark’s unequivocal right to investigate its police department now cemented and reinforced by the court, the city’s CCRB provides an example – for every municipality in New Jersey and around the nation – of how to restore power in communities that bear the brunt of an unjust system at the hands of law enforcement.
"The ACLU-NJ is grateful for Mayor Ras Baraka’s leadership, and we will continue to work closely with city leaders, advocates, and partners to ensure the Newark CCRB has the resources it needs to do the work it was created to carry out – providing accountability and restoring trust between law enforcement officers and the community they serve."