Newark Community and Advocacy Organizations Welcome Opportunity for Reform of the Newark Police Department

July 24, 2014
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Groups call for accountable policing and civilian oversight of the NPD

NEWARK - In response to the announcement on July 22nd of an agreement between the Department of Justice and the Newark Police Department to reform police practices in Newark, the following statement is attributable to the following organizations:

  • 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
  • American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey
  • Ironbound Community Corporation
  • NAACP of New Jersey State Conference
  • New Jersey Communities United
  • Newark LGBTQ Community Center
  • People's Organization for Progress

“Today is a new day for Newark. The findings of the Justice Department investigation and the reforms agreed to by the City of Newark create an opportunity for the Newark Police Department (NPD) to make historic changes that will bring about a safer city that respects the civil liberties and civil rights of all of its residents. We urge the NPD to work closely with Newark community members as the process of reform begins.

As a diverse group of organizations dedicated to protecting civil rights and advancing social and economic justice, we share a common vision of building a respectful, accountable, and transparent Newark Police Department. We believe that reforms to the NPD are needed to promote community safety and uphold the human rights and constitutional rights of all Newarkers.

The Justice Department’s investigation found widespread police practices that violate Newarkers’ civil rights. These findings included a practice of unconstitutional stop-and-frisks, a broken police accountability system, and a record of the police department unlawfully seizing Newarkers’ personal property and punishing community members for criticizing the police. Meanwhile, Newark communities continue to suffer from high rates of violent crime and have not seen effective NPD strategies to mitigate the violence.

These factors contribute to a scenario where Newarkers face civil rights violations on a regular basis and build a case for reform of the NPD. All Newark communities—African-Americans, Latinos, LGBT people, students, immigrants, low-income people—deserve respect and a police department that contributes to their safety and dignity.

Therefore, we support three goals to reform the Newark Police Department in ways that will protect human and constitutional rights and build a stronger relationship between the community and law enforcement:

  1. Build a culture of respect and cooperation between the Newark Police Department and Newark communities.
  2. Establish Community Advisory Board(s) to facilitate police-community relationships, develop community leadership, and provide feedback to the NPD from Newark communities.
  3. Create a strong, independent civilian oversight body for the Newark Police Department with subpoena power and independent disciplinary authority that can address individual cases of police misconduct, audit police policies and practices, and make recommendations for reforms.”

U.S. Department of Justice Investigation Finds Widespread Constitutional Violations by Newark Police Department

July 22, 2014
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ACLU-NJ welcomes historic federal intervention to oversee sweeping reforms, which follow ACLU-NJ petition for federal investigation

NEWARK - The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey welcomes the announcement that the City of Newark and the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) have agreed to federal oversight to preside over sweeping reforms of the Newark Police Department (“NPD”). The federal intervention comes in response to a petition filed with the DOJ by the ACLU of New Jersey (“ACLU-NJ”) in September 2010 documenting more than 400 incidents of abuse and misconduct by the Newark Police Department and calling for DOJ oversight.

The DOJ’s report includes the following findings, based on a multi-year federal civil rights investigation of the NPD:

  • Widespread violations of the Fourth Amendment, including that up to 75 percent of stop-and-frisks in Newark are unconstitutional;
  • Vast racial disparities in policing practices, with black Newarkers bearing the brunt of the police department’s enforcement activities. While black residents comprise 54 percent of Newark’s population, they constitute nearly 85 percent of police stop-and frisks;
  • A pattern and practice of excessive use of force by police officers;
  • Retaliation against Newarkers for objecting to police actions and for other First Amendment-protected activities;
  • Widespread failures of the Newark Police Department’s Internal Affairs process; and
  • Theft of property and money by Newark police officers.

“This is a historic moment for Newark, one that could lead to the creation of a police force that is respectful of civil rights and that is accountable to the people of Newark,” said Udi Ofer, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “The appointment of an independent monitor to oversee reforms of the Newark Police Department affirms the findings of the ACLU of New Jersey’s 2010 petition documenting widespread civil rights and civil liberties abuses by the Newark Police Department. But today’s historic report by the Justice Department is just the first step, and not the last, toward bringing permanent accountability to the Newark Police Department. In order to ensure that oversight outlasts any one federal monitor, effective reform must include the creation of permanent, independent, and strong civilian oversight of the Newark Police Department.”

Together with Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Jocelyn Samuels, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, and NPD Director Eugene Venable, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul Fishman reported the remedial measures Newark will take as part of an “agreement in principle” with the DOJ. These measures will be part of a final, court-enforced and independently monitored settlement agreement. Some of the remedial measures include:

  • Civilian review of the NPD;
  • Strengthened Internal Affairs procedures;
  • New measures and training to end unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practices;
  • Enhanced data collection and analysis to ensure fair and just policing practices;
  • An early warning system to raise red flags of unconstitutional officer behavior and encourage constitutional policing;
  • Community engagement to strengthen police-community relations;

As development and implementation of the sweeping changes that will be agreed to in the consent decree move forward, the ACLU-NJ urges the City and the DOJ to ensure that community members in Newark are partners in the process of reform. In order for these critical reforms to take root, community members must have a seat at the decision-making table.

“The City of Newark should welcome this opportunity to establish meaningful reforms of the police department, including creating and implementing policies and practices that will better ensure proper and more productive interactions between police and the communities they serve,” said Ed Barocas, Legal Director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “A partnership between the City of Newark and the Justice Department has the potential to change the police department forever, for the better.”

The ACLU-NJ first called for federal intervention in the Newark Police Department in 1967 after years of unaddressed complaints of police misconduct contributed greatly to that summer’s clashes between residents and law enforcement. In response, the ACLU-NJ filed lawsuits in 1967 calling for federal oversight of the Newark Police Department. In September 2010, the ACLU-NJ submitted a petition to the DOJ that documented 418 allegations of police misconduct, including false arrests, excessive force, unlawful stops and searches, discrimination and retaliation, as well as a broken internal affairs system. The petition was based on the study of a 2.5-year period ending in 2010. In May 2011, the DOJ announced that it would open an investigation into the reports of civil rights and civil liberties violations in the department.

“We thank Deborah Jacobs, the former executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey, for her persistence in leading the charge during her directorship to make a strong, unequivocal case for the need for federal intervention,” said Ofer.

The DOJ’s remedial measures track closely what the ACLU-NJ has called for in the past, including civilian oversight, community engagement, fair and consistent discipline, an officer early warning system, and improvements to the internal affairs system.

The ACLU-NJ welcomes the Justice Department’s recommendation that Newark establish civilian review of the NPD but insists that creation of any civilian complaint review board must be done carefully and in a manner that avoids the experiences of municipalities that have established civilian review boards without creating meaningful oversight. Newarkers have been calling for a civilian complaint review board since at least 1965, and such a review board must be independent and equipped with strong accountability tools. For a civilian review board to be effective, its members need subpoena power and independent authority to discipline police officers found to have engaged in wrongdoing, as well as the ability to audit police policies and practices and make recommendations for reforms. An oversight entity must be adequately funded and must afford due process protections for all parties, including police officers.

“A weak civilian complaint review board is worse than no civilian complaint review board because it gives the impression of oversight but in fact provides no accountability,” said Ofer. “The Department of Justice will be in Newark for only a few years, but the residents of Newark will need to hold their police department accountable for decades to come.”

Since filing the petition, the ACLU-NJ has continued to document and challenge abusive police practices in Newark, including by releasing a report in February 2014 that provided the first-ever analysis of stop-and-frisk practices in Newark. The ACLU-NJ report highlighted several disturbing patterns that raise serious constitutional concerns. Specifically, the report raised concerns about the high volume of stops, the disproportionate use of stop-and-frisk against black Newarkers, and the fact that the vast of majority of stops were of innocent people. The DOJ’s findings announced today determined that up to 75 percent of NPD stops are unconstitutional.

In 2012, under the leadership of Police Director Samuel DeMaio, the Newark Police Department worked with the ACLU-NJ to craft policies to protect the rights of members of the public to record police officers on duty. The policy, which mandates officer training concerning the public’s First Amendment rights, came as a result of the ACLU-NJ’s representation of Khaliah Fitchette, a Newark teenager pulled off a city bus and detained by police for using her cellphone to record video of officers responding to an incident. Today’s findings by the DOJ reveal continued targeting of members of the public by NPD officers for criticizing the police or engaging in other First Amendment-protected activity.

In addition, in July 2013, the Newark Police Department, in collaboration with the ACLU-NJ, adopted a data transparency policy requiring the department to release monthly data detailing the number of stop-and-frisks it conducts and the demographic information of the person being stopped, as well as information on the disposition of the stop. The policy also requires the department to report on the number of internal affairs complaints it receives and its use of force reports. The Police Department has yet to fully comply with the transparency policy. Also that month, the ACLU-NJ and other immigrants’ rights advocates worked with the Newark Police Department to stop honoring voluntary immigration detainer requests, thus helping ensure that immigrant communities in Newark may contact the police without fearing deportation.

A copy of the ACLU-NJ’s petition that led to the Justice Department investigation and more information about the ACLU-NJ’s work to improve police practices may be found at www.aclu-nj.org/policepractices.

ACLU-NJ and civil rights groups seek to reinstate challenge to NYPD spying on Muslims in New Jersey

July 14, 2014
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Amicus brief argues that lower court decision erred in dismissing claims of religious and ethnic profiling by the NYPD

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has submitted a friend-of-the-court brief (PDF) on behalf of itself and numerous civil rights advocacy organizations in the case of Hassan, et al., v. City of New York, which challenges the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) surveillance of Muslims, mosques, and Muslim-owned businesses in New Jersey. The brief, which was submitted to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, explained that the lower court erred when it issued a decision in February dismissing the plaintiffs' claims.

The organizations on the brief included Latino Justice PRLDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Garden State Bar Association, the Hispanic Bar Association, and the Association of Black Women Lawyers of New Jersey.

"When a person presents evidence that a government agency has singled them out for harsher treatment because of their race, ethnicity or religion, the government bears a heavy burden of justifying its actions," stated Rutgers Law School-Newark's Acting Dean Ronald Chen, who is serving as the ACLU-NJ's cooperating counsel in the case. "The plaintiffs deserve to have their day in court to challenge being profiled by the NYPD."

For years, the New York City Police Department secretly conducted surveillance that targeted Muslims living in New Jersey, until a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press series uncovered the program. On February 21, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge William Martini dismissed the lawsuit, filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Muslim Advocates on behalf of eight Muslim residents of New Jersey, despite the serious constitutional concerns involved in targeting people for surveillance based solely on their religion.

"This appeal is significant, not only because it seeks to restore a challenge the NYPD's surveillance practices, but also because of what it could mean for future civil rights causes," said ACLU-NJ Legal Director Ed Barocas. "Our federal courts must be open to hearing discrimination claims. As explained in the brief, when the government profiles an entire group of people based solely on a characteristic such as ethnicity or religion, it has a ripple effect, causing others to fear and discriminate against that group."

The amicus brief in Hassan v. City of New York was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Related Content

Gov. Chris Christie gets D+ in Civil Rights and Liberties from ACLU-NJ

June 9, 2014
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NEWARK - The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) has given Gov. Chris Christie a D+ (PDF) for his overall record on civil liberties and civil rights during his first term in office. The ACLU-NJ examined the governor’s record in 12 issue areas and gave him his lowest grades in the areas of separation of church and state, transparency, and separation of powers.

The governor earned higher marks in other areas, such as freedom of religion and voting rights. The report card examines the Christie administration from January 19, 2010 when Gov. Christie was sworn into office, to January 20, 2014 when his first term ended.

“Gov. Christie’s overall record on civil liberties and civil rights has been poor, ranging mostly from mediocre to failing,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Udi Ofer. “The Christie administration’s first-term record on civil liberties will be remembered for its assaults on judicial independence and the separation of church and state, as well as for its disdain for transparency. Some of Governor Christie’s most frustrating civil liberties moments have been those instances where he has failed to back up bold words with substantive actions, such as in the areas of LGBT rights and the failed war on drugs.”

The first-term report card graded the governor on 12 crucial civil rights and liberties issues: freedom of expression, freedom of religion, separation of church and state, voting rights, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, privacy, LGBT rights, criminal justice and drug policy, transparency, separation of powers, and economic justice. This report card expanded on the categories of the ACLU-NJ’s 2012 interim report card, which graded him in eight categories.

“The real concern here is not what these grades mean for Gov. Christie and his administration, but what they’ve meant for everyday New Jerseyans,” said ACLU-NJ Public Policy Director Ari Rosmarin. “From loving couples seeking to get married, to sick patients in need of medical marijuana, to poor New Jerseyans struggling to find an affordable place to live, many of us have not had a friend in the Governor’s office. While there still remains time to improve, as of now, this administration’s legacy on civil rights and liberties is not a proud one.”

Christie’s highest grade came in the area of freedom of religion, the category in which he also earned his highest marks in the ACLU-NJ’s interim report card. Christie deservedly received praise for supporting a developer’s decision to construct a mosque and Muslim community center near the World Trade Center during the height of the controversy in 2011. Soon after, Christie garnered national attention for excoriating a faction that railed against the appointment of a Muslim lawyer to serve as a Superior Court judge.

Christie’s appreciation for freedom of religion swung too far in the other direction when it came down to state involvement in religion. In the category of separation of church and state, Christie received the lowest score – an F. Especially damning was his administration’s decision to give away millions in state funds to two sectarian religious institutions: Beth Medrash Govoha, a school that trains Orthodox rabbis, and Princeton Theological Seminary, which trains Christian clergy.

The ACLU-NJ recognized his administration’s support for voting rights, especially in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, with a B-. In transparency, separation of powers and economic justice, Christie earned solid Fs for his abysmal record on all three issues across the board. The Bridgegate scandal exposed how frequently the administration attempted to keep government business out of the public eye, but it hardly stands in isolation.

Christie’s protracted fight against marriage equality, which ended only when it became clear that he would lose, cast a long shadow over some of his gestures of good will toward the LGBT community, resulting in his final grade of a D in LGBT rights. When it comes to immigrants’ rights, Gov. Christie supported giving undocumented immigrants a chance at a higher education by signing the NJ Dream Act, but he removed an important provision that would have fully opened the doors of opportunity by allowing them to apply for state financial aid, earning him an overall grade of a C in immigrants’ rights. Gov. Christie earned Cs in a plurality of other subjects as well, including freedom of expression, women’s rights, privacy, and criminal justice and drug policy, although even those grades ranged from C- to C+.

“The Christie administration deserves credit where credit is due, especially in taking a stand for religious expression and being responsive to voting concerns in the wake of Superstorm Sandy,” said ACLU-NJ Legal Director Edward Barocas. “But where Gov. Christie stumbles, such as when it comes to the separation of powers and to transparency, the bottom falls out. We hope the governor learned his civil liberties lesson from numerous court actions that were successfully brought against his administration during his first term, but if not, we’re ready to compel him to act as if he were an A student.”

Where Do the 12th Congressional District Candidates Stand on Civil Rights and Liberties Issues

May 30, 2014
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On May 1, the ACLU of New Jersey and other leading civil rights organizations hosted a civil rights and liberties debate in Princeton for candidates vying for the 12th Congressional District seat. The seat is being vacated by U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, who is retiring.

Democratic candidates Upendra Chivukula, Linda Greenstein, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Andrew Zwicker and Republican candidate Alieta Eck, squared off on a variety of questions about civil rights and civil liberties issues. The event was moderated by NJTV anchor Mike Schneider.

The ACLU works to protect the fundamental right of every adult citizen in New Jersey to cast a ballot and have that ballot counted. Call the League of Women Voters of New Jersey Election Day hotline: 1-800-792-VOTE (8683) if you encounter any problems at the polls on June 3rd.

Co-sponsoring organization included: AFSC Immigrant Rights Program, CAIR-NJ, Drug Policy Alliance- New Jersey, The Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., New Jersey NAACP State Conference, YWCA Princeton, and YWCA Union County.

Inform yourself about the candidates’ stances on civil rights and liberties issues. (PDF)

ACLU-NJ Report Reveals Troubling Use of Stop-and-Frisk in Newark

February 25, 2014
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Analysis reveals black Newarkers stopped disproportionately and bulk of stops involve innocent people

NEWARK – Newark Police officers use stop-and-frisk with troubling frequency and in a manner that leads to racial disparities, according to a report released today (4mb PDF) by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ). The report analyzes the first six months of data from the Newark Police Department, which releases the information on its website monthly in compliance with its new Transparency Policy. It is the first public analysis of the data.

“The police department’s data reveal disturbing patterns about the use of stop-and-frisk in Newark,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Udi Ofer. “Newark police make a high number of stops, disproportionately stop black Newarkers, and stop innocent people in the vast majority of cases. These findings raise significant constitutional red flags for the City of Newark.”

Although the ACLU-NJ acknowledges that six months of data may be insufficient to draw definitive conclusions about the Newark Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices, the organization believes the initial concerns raised by these data warrant corrective actions by the City of Newark now.

From July to December 2013, officers made 91 stops per 1,000 Newark residents—nearly one person stopped for every ten residents—exceeding the rate in New York City of eight stops per 1,000 residents over the same period in 2013. In all of 2013, the New York Police Department made 24 stops per 1,000 residents, still significantly lower than Newark’s rate. The ACLU-NJ chose to compare Newark’s stop-and-frisk practices with New York City’s because of its close proximity and because New York City’s practices have been the subject of much national attention and criticism. Although it is required under Newark’s Transparency Policy, it is unclear whether the first six months of reported data include stops of motor vehicles. New York City’s data does not appear to include motor vehicle stops.

In addition to the troublingly high frequency of stops, officers stop black Newarkers at disproportionate rates. Black Newarkers make up 52 percent of the population, but they represented 75 percent of all stops in the first six months of data. Newark Police did not report how many Latino residents were stopped last year, but at the urging of the ACLU-NJ, it began including that data in its January 2014 report.

The analysis also finds that of those stopped in Newark, 75 percent were innocent and walked away without receiving a summons or being arrested. The police did not disclose the nature of the arrests or summonses, nor did it disaggregate the two in its data reports. The ACLU-NJ recommends in its report that police provide this information in order to offer a more comprehensive picture of stop-and-frisk activity.

“The U.S. Supreme Court made clear decades ago that under our Constitution, police are permitted to stop people only if they have individualized and reasonable suspicion of a crime,” said ACLU-NJ Public Policy Director Ari Rosmarin. “When 75 percent of those stopped in Newark are innocent of any wrongdoing, it raises significant questions about what criteria officers are using when deciding to make a stop.”

The ACLU-NJ commends former Police Director Samuel DeMaio and former Mayor Cory Booker for making the police department more transparent and accountable to the public by releasing stop-and-frisk data to the public. The police department adopted the groundbreaking Transparency Policy in July 2013.

“Once fully implemented, the Newark Police Department’s transparency data policy will be a model for other law enforcement agencies in New Jersey and across the country,” said Rosmarin. “We look forward to continuing to work with the department and Acting Director Sheila Coley to ensure Newarkers have access to the comprehensive data and to address the concerns raised in our report.”

The ACLU-NJ is asking the Newark Police to release more information on stop-and-frisks, including the reasons for the stops, and whether those being stopped have limited English proficiency(in order to understand the impact of stop-and-frisk on immigrant communities), in accordance with the Transparency Policy. In addition, the ACLU-NJ also makes the following recommendations for the City of Newark:

  • Review stop-and-frisk practices, and pay particular attention to the high volume, racial disparities and innocence rate of stops.
  • Ensure that an appointed federal monitor investigates stop-and-frisk practices.
  • Establish independent mechanisms, like a strong civilian complaint review board and inspector general to monitor police practices.
  • Require officers to issue “receipts” to individuals following stops to document the interaction, build trust and enhance accountability.

“Our report’s findings about stop-and-frisk practices in Newark make a powerful case for robust and independent oversight of the Newark Police Department,” said Ofer. “A strong civilian complaint review board or inspector general’s office could provide long-lasting accountability and help usher in critical reforms to the department.”

In 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court sanctioned the use of stop-and-frisk in the case of Terry v. Ohio, but not without placing strict limitations on how and when police can use the tactic. Police officers may stop a person only when they have individualized and reasonable suspicion of a crime. They may pat down the outer layers of the person’s clothing following a lawful stop only when they reasonably suspect that the person is armed and poses a danger to the officer’s safety. In the decades since, stop-and-frisk has mutated in some large cities, particularly in low income communities of color, into a commonplace tactic that has been humiliating and unconstitutional.

The report was written by Udi Ofer and Ari Rosmarin. Data analysis was conducted by Sara LaPlante. The report was edited by Katie Wang, ACLU-NJ Communications Director, and Alexander Shalom, ACLU-NJ Senior Staff Attorney.

ACLU-NJ Welcomes News Reports of Federal Monitor of Newark Police Department

February 9, 2014
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Star-Ledger Reports Department of Justice responds to ACLU-NJ petition by ordering federal monitor to preside over Newark Police

NEWARK – The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) welcomes news reports that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will place the Newark Police Department (NPD) under federal oversight in order to safeguard against future civil rights and civil liberties abuses by law enforcement. The ACLU-NJ was the first to ask for a federal monitor in September 2010 after submitting a petition to the DOJ detailing more than 400 incidents of abuse and misconduct by the Newark Police Department.

The DOJ opened an investigation in May 2011.

“The Justice Department’s decision affirms the findings of our petition that the problems in the Newark Police Department have been so widespread and grave that they warrant outside, federal intervention and oversight to help turn the department around,” said Udi Ofer, executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “But a federal monitor is just the first step, and not the last, towards bringing a permanently accountable police department to the people of Newark.”

In addition to the monitor, the ACLU-NJ is calling for the NPD to implement additional reforms such as a strong and independent civilian review board and inspector general to create permanent changes after the monitor’s period ends.

“In order to ensure that oversight of the Newark Police Department outlasts any one administration or any one federal monitor, any reforms must also include the creation of a strong and independent civilian complaint review board and an inspector general’s office,” said Ofer.

A civilian complaint review board will investigate complaints of misconduct against the Newark Police Department, and to be effective must have independent subpoena authority and the ability to discipline police officers who are found to engage in misconduct, as well as adequate funding and a fair and transparent process. An inspector general will have the authority to audit the police department and make recommendations for policies and practices.

The ACLU-NJ first called for federal intervention of the Newark Police Department in 1967, after rampant reports of police misconduct and abuse by the police during and after that summer’s clashes between residents and the police. In September 2010, the ACLU-NJ submitted a petition to the DOJ that documented 418 instances of police misconduct, including false arrests, excessive force, unlawful stops and searches, discrimination and retaliation, as well as a broken internal affairs system. The petition was based on a 2.5 year study that ended in 2010. In May 2011, the DOJ announced it would open an investigation into the reports of civil rights and civil liberties violations in the department.

“We thank Deborah Jacobs, the former executive director of the ACLU-NJ, for her persistence in making a strong, unequivocal case for the need for federal intervention,” said Ofer.

The DOJ has intervened in several other cities’ police departments since the ACLU-NJ filed its petition, including Seattle and New Orleans, where it issued consent decrees aimed at creating long-lasting changes in policing culture. The New Jersey State Police signed a consent decree in 1999 agreeing to changes designed to end racial profiling.

“This is a chance to change the future, and it’s imperative that the DOJ incorporate lessons learned from past consent decrees,” said ACLU-NJ Senior Staff Attorney Alexander Shalom. “Whether a police department transforms itself or regresses into old habits depends on the commitment of its monitors to turning it around permanently.”

The ACLU-NJ will continue to act as a resource for the Newark Police, offering insights on how to uphold civil liberties and civil rights while also protecting public safety. In 2012, under the leadership of Police Director Samuel DeMaio, the Newark Police Department worked with the ACLU-NJ to craft policies to protect the rights of members of the public to record police officers on duty. The policy, which mandates officer training concerning the public’s First Amendment rights, came as a result of the ACLU-NJ’s representation of Khaliah Fitchette, a Newark teenager pulled off a city bus and detained by police for using her cellphone to record video of officers responding to an incident.

In addition, in July, the Newark Police Department, in collaboration with the ACLU-NJ, adopted a data transparency policy requiring the department to release monthly data detailing the number of stop-and-frisks it conducts and the demographic information of the person being stopped, as well as information on the disposition of the stop. The policy also requires the department to report on the number of internal affairs complaints it receives and its use of force reports. Also in July, the ACLU-NJ and other immigrants’ rights advocates worked with the Newark Police Department to stop honoring voluntary immigration detainer requests, thus ensuring that immigrant communities in Newark may contact the police without fearing deportation.

The ACLU-NJ’s petition to the DOJ was compiled by former ACLU-NJ Senior Counsel Flavio Komuves.

A copy of the ACLU-NJ’s petition and more information about the ACLU-NJ’s work to improve police practices can be found at www.aclu-nj.org/policepractices.

Giving thanks for defenders of civil liberties

November 27, 2013
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For Thanksgiving, we want to share with you our gratitude for a few New Jersey public servants who have proved to be champions of civil liberties this year.

Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson and the NJ Supreme Court

Mary Jacobson

Mary Jacobson

In September, Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson made history with a decision declaring civil unions unconstitutional. Just a few weeks later, the NJ Supreme Court unanimously rejected Gov. Chris Christie's request to delay marriage equality. A few hours after the first marriages began at midnight on Oct. 21, Gov. Christie dropped his appeal. Judge Jacobson and the NJ Supreme Court – and, above all, the tireless advocates, especially Lambda Legal, Garden State Equality, and all of our partners in NJ United for Marriage – cleared the way for NJ to become the 14th state to recognize marriage equality.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney and State Senators Teresa Ruiz, Nellie Pou and Sandra Cunningham, primary sponsors of the NJ Senate's Tuition Equality Act

Teresa Ruiz

Teresa Ruiz

After years of community and student activism, tremendous credit goes to these legislators for leading the charge for tuition equality in the NJ Senate. If enacted, the Tuition Equality Act (S2479) will allow undocumented NJ high school students who meet certain requirements to qualify for in-state tuition and financial aid opportunities. Gov. Christie announced support for tuition equality on the campaign trail, but then backtracked, saying the Senate's version of the bill "goes too far." We will keep pushing to end discrimination in access to higher education in NJ this year.

Senator Cory Booker and Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio

Cory Booker

Cory Booker

Just before Cory Booker left Newark to become the state's newest U.S. Senator, he and Police Director Samuel DeMaio instituted two measures to increase safety and protect civil liberties. First, the Newark Police Department (NPD) now publishes data about its use of "stop-and-frisk" tactics each month. Second, the NPD stopped honoring "ICE holds" – warrantless requests from federal immigration authorities to hold people in custody. These new policies increase accountability, transparency, and public safety.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop

Steven Fulop

Steven Fulop

Mayor Fulop signed a city ordinance requiring certain Jersey City businesses to give paid sick leave to employees, the first such policy in NJ. The ACLU-NJ believes that a person can only fully exercise their rights when basic needs are met. This policy helps make Jersey City a place where civil liberties can thrive.

These are only a few of the NJ officials who have stood out this year for their commitment to civil liberties. Do you know a public official who has shown outstanding commitment to civil liberties in 2013? Share them on the ACLU-NJ's Facebook page.

Above all, we're grateful for you this Thanksgiving and every day. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the ACLU of New Jersey!

ACLU-NJ Welcomes First Set of Newark “Stop-and-Frisk” Data, Hopes Police’s Reports Will Go Further

August 15, 2013
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Newark Police Department issues July statistics for stop-and-frisk a month after issuing groundbreaking transparency directive

NEWARK – A month after the Newark Police Department adopted strong transparency standards regarding the tracking and reporting of “stop-and-frisk” statistics, the ACLU-NJ welcomes the first batch of data on the searches taking place in Newark and looks forward to future analysis. The reports offer valuable information, such as the number of stops per precinct and demographic information of those searched, yet they do not currently include detailed information about the reasons for stops or stops of Latinos.

ACLU-NJ Executive Director Udi Ofer issues the following statement:

Udi Ofer

“The ACLU-NJ commends the Newark Police Department for issuing, for the first time in its history, public data on the use of stop-and-frisk in Newark. Stop-and-frisk is an intrusive practice that should be used carefully and only when there is reasonable suspicion of a crime. This data offers an important look at who is being stopped-and-frisked in our community and why. Given that we have only one month’s worth of data, it is too early to draw any conclusions from the data. We do look forward to working with the Police Director to fill in some of the gaps in the data, such as information on the impact of stop-and-frisk on Newark’s Latino community, the reasons behind the stops, and data on when stops lead to frisks and searches.”

ACLU-NJ Praises Newark’s Adoption of Stop-and-Frisk Transparency Policy

July 9, 2013
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Order requires documentation of police stops and regular public reporting of data

NEWARK – As debate concerning New York City’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” policy carries on, the city of Newark today issued one of the most comprehensive policies in the nation requiring the tracking and public reporting of the police department’s stop-and-frisk practices.

The Newark Police Department issued a general order, known as the “Police Transparency Policy,” requiring officers to document each stop regardless of the outcome, explain the reasons for the stop and the demographic information (including race, sex, age, and language proficiency) of the person being stopped, and note whether the person was frisked or whether force was used. Police will also be required to note whether the person stopped is a student.

A summary of the data collected by the officers will be released to the public on a monthly basis, allowing the public to determine whether the practice is administered judiciously. Concurrently, Newark Mayor Cory Booker introduced a resolution to the Municipal Council in support of the general order.

“Newark has taken an important step today in instituting greater transparency in policing practices, and in building the trust and confidence of the public in our police force,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Udi Ofer. “This new policy gives New Jerseyans a close look into how policing is administered in our largest city, and should serve as a model for the rest of the state and nation.”

Specifically, this new policy will require that the Newark Police Department:

  • Post statistics on its website every month detailing field inquiry reports, use of force reports, and internal affairs data.
  • Include in the field inquiry reports information on the number of stops, frisks and searches citywide by each police sector and a breakdown of the stops by race, gender, age, and limited English proficiency. The report must also include an explanation of the reason for the stop, and the number of individuals who received a summons or were arrested as a result of a stop in each police sector.
  • Include in its use of force reports the total number of incidents and a description of the force used.
  • Include in its internal affairs data the number of citizen and departmental complaints received, sustained, administratively closed, exonerated, not sustained, and unfounded. The advocate unit must also provide the number of hearings held, officers disciplined and types of discipline.

“With this policy in place, New Jerseyans will have a much clearer sense of who is stopped and for what reasons, and whether this tactic is being used against innocent people or in a discriminatory manner,” said Ofer. “The ACLU-NJ commends Mayor Booker, Police Director DeMaio, and the Newark Municipal Council for working together to institute this important policy.”