ACLU-NJ Film Festival Kicks Off Police Accountability Campaign

The August 8 kickoff to our statewide police accountability campaign, "Disorderly Conduct: Police In Film," delved into problems in police departments and offered solutions from some of the most talented members of New Jersey's criminal justice community.

"Black and Blue: Legend of the Hip-Hop Cop," a documentary exploring police harassment of hip hop artists and their associates, was a festival favorite.

During a panel discussion with lawyers, activists and criminal justice experts from around the region, King Downing, the national coordinator of the ACLU Campaign Against Police Brutality, held up a thick dossier of arrest reports, photos and other private information collected by the NYPD and other police departments around the country on Hip-Hop, R&B entertainers and their associates to illustrate the depth of the problem.

Downing identified five of the most serious concerns among nationwide trends in police misconduct:

  • Racial profiling
  • Over-use of tasers
  • Use of excessive force
  • Failure of the federal government to even keep records of police misconduct - not to mention following up with discipline
  • The militarization of police - which violates federal law

Civil rights attorney Bill Buckman focused the discussion directly on police misconduct in New Jersey.

"The only person punished was the judge that issued the opinion that racial profiling was in fact a problem on the NJ Turnpike," said Buckman, who has been instrumental against racial profiling in New Jersey. "He was removed from his position as a chancery judge to become a judge dealing with family issues. Only new judges are appointed to that position."

The consent decree in New Jersey, which let in federal monitors to eliminate racial profiling in police departments, hung over the conversation. Desha Jackson, an attorney who disciplined police when the consent decree was agreed upon, said there were still problems within the state police, but the consent decree changed the way the department conducted internal affairs investigations. "When you complain to the Internal Affairs Department of the State Police, they are to investigate and not sweep under the rug, as they did in the past," she said.

The room broke into applause when De Lacy Davis, founder of Black Cops Against Police Brutality, said, "We should not be afraid of the police - they are there to protect us. Community policing is about building relationships and partnership between police and community - not what's happening in the community."

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