Newark police monitoring deal likely

Investigative reporter Jim Hoffer has the story.
February 10, 2014 3:27:53 PM PST
A federal monitor is likely to be charge soon of the Newark Police Department, the largest in New Jersey.

One City Councilman says not so fast. Eyewitness News has learned he and the mayor have been talking about pushing through police reforms so as to keep a federal monitor from stepping in.

Whether the changes to Newark's Police Department come from the outside or from within, most agree changes must come.

An agreement is just about finalized after a federal investigation into complaints about excessive force and unlawful arrests.

If it were up to the people Eyewitness News spoke to on Newark's busy Broad Street, a federal monitor would have been called in long ago in to watch the police.

"You walk down the street and cops stop you for no reason, so it would be something needed," said John Bell, a Newark resident.

"Someone to monitor them," Eyewitness News Investigative reporter Jim Hoffer said.

"Yes," Bell said.

"As long as you keep an eye on them they can't do wrong," said Valentino Rogers, a Newark resident.

"It's about time somebody's watching them," a woman said.

Nearly four years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a petition seeking federal oversight of the Newark Police Department. They cited 418 instances of police misconduct including excessive force, unlawful searches and false arrests:

"What our petition showed not only many violations of civil liberties but also Newark Police Department wasn't doing anything about it. When it comes to excessive force they had a substantiation rate of zero," said Udi Ofer, of the America Civil Liberties Union.

One of those falsely arrested, tow truck operator and owner Michael Stewart was detained for a lengthy period for stealing cars.

"They towed my tow truck away and my cars and locked me up," Stewart said.

Stewart got a $90,000 settlement. He says a federal monitor is a must.

"It's about time, should have been done a long time ago, the Newark Police do whatever they want," Stewart said.

The current Police Director Samuel DeMaio, who will soon retire, is credited with making some reforms including the recording of all Stop and Frisk searches.

"It's not a done deal," Newark Councilman Augusto Amadoro said.

This lawmaker says a federal monitor is unnecessary and can be stopped if City Council moves quickly to create an Independent Civilian Complaint Review Board.

"The creation of civilian review board by members of community with high credibility within Newark community will probably off set whatever attempt has been made to bring monitor to Newark," Amadoro said.

Monday afternoon, Newark's Mayor released a statement saying, "We are still in discussions with the Department of Justice. A monitor is likely but has not been definitely decided."

The Police Department said they have no comment on the issue.