Newark Police to Be Placed Under Monitor as Feds Find “Pattern of Unconstitutional Policing”

The Newark police department will be put under a monitor, the Justice Department announced Tuesday as it issued a report alleging that as many as 75 percent of police stops in New Jersey's largest city over the last several years were not legally justified.

The investigation began in 2011 and the Justice Department reviewed thousands of police documents and interviewed officers and commanders as well as residents in drafting the report.

In addition to the unconstitutional stops, investigators found use of force by Newark police officers was unreasonable in about 20 percent of all arrests where force was used. Only one excessive force complaint has been filed against Newark officers in the last six years.

The report concluded that "the black community bears the brunt of NPD's unconstitutional stop practices," according to a copy obtained by NBC 4 New York.

It found black residents were the subject of police stops at higher rates than whites considering the city's population as a whole. But the report also said more data was needed to make a race-based comparison of police stops to victims' descriptions of criminal suspects.

The Justice Department report also alleged Newark police under-reported their confrontations with citizens or inaccurately documented those stops. The report also documented property theft within the department's prisoner property unit, officials said.

The Justice Department said Newark police cooperated with the investigation and Newark's new mayor announced earlier this month that reforms were being implemented.

United States Attorney Paul Fishman said Newark's residents "need to know the police protecting them are doing that important -- and often dangerous -- work while respecting their constitutional rights."

Fishman said there is no evidence of racial profiling by Newark police; he said poor training is a leading factor for unjustified stops in higher crime neighborhoods.

The report calls for improved training and supervision of officers, more intense review of use of force cases, clear practices for police stops, improved data collection and more rigorous procedures for safekeeping personal property among other steps.

The city agrees in principle to the findings, documents show. There will be court-enforced independent monitoring of the reforms moving forward.

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