ACLU-NJ Response to Newark Policing Exchange in Democratic Presidential Debate

August 1, 2019

In response to the debate exchange between presidential candidates Senator Cory Booker and former Vice President Joe Biden concerning civil rights in the context of the Newark Police during Booker’s tenure as mayor of New Jersey’s largest city, the ACLU-NJ issues the following statement, attributable to ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha:

“Civil rights and racial justice in policing are urgent parts of our national discourse, and Newark’s role in that struggle for accountability rightly deserved a place on the stage last night. We’re grateful for Senator Booker’s recognition of the contributions made by advocates, including the ACLU-NJ and countless community partners.

“During Senator Booker’s time as mayor of Newark, the ACLU-NJ’s working relationship included moments of collaboration as well as moments of disagreement about the best ways to reform a police department with a decades-long history of abuse.

“The ACLU-NJ and then-Mayor Booker disagreed on the role of federal oversight when our organization initially petitioned the Department of Justice to mandate and oversee civil rights reforms of the city’s long-troubled police department. However, in the process of working with the Department of Justice to discuss federal oversight, Mayor Booker came to see the virtues of intervention, and together we had the opportunity to begin addressing patterns of constitutional abuses in Newark – patterns that, unfortunately, pervade most police departments in cities with large populations of people of color.

“The work that began with the petition for federal intervention and the Department of Justice investigation continues today. In particular, advocates and community members are working tirelessly to maintain the most powerful aspects of Newark's civilian complaint review board, which Newarkers had fought to create for more than 50 years.

“Our city, our state, and our country have miles to go in our shared effort to achieve racial justice and accountability in law enforcement, and the ACLU-NJ has been and always will be on the front lines of the fight. Although civil rights advocacy changes over time, one element of the ACLU-NJ’s work is unchanging: we will work with any decision-maker who aims to further the cause of liberty.

“We’re looking forward to continuing to work with Sen. Booker, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, and the people of Newark to ensure that our city can be a beacon of progress for the nation.”

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