NEWARK, NJ — The Newark Police Department reported a 73% decrease in excessive force complaints since 2010, illustrating a shift in culture envisioned by the federal consent decree, according to a recent status report filed by the City of Newark.
The change of culture "cannot be completed in a matter of months, and progress is ongoing, however, a meaningful shift in the transparency data has been observed as it pertains to complaints against personnel, specifically excessive force complaints against NPD officers," the report states.
The decree was created in 2016 to help reform the police department after a U.S. Department of Justice investigation found patterns of unconstitutional stops, searches, arrests; use of excessive force and theft by officers in the department.
In 2010, there were 88 excessive force complaints filed against NPD officers, with one complaint sustained. In 2018, there were 23 excessive force complaints, a 73% decrease.
Seven of those 23 complaints in 2018 were found to be sustained.
This year, 16 excessive force complaints were filed as of October 2019, seven of which were generated internally by supervisors who reviewed use of force reports and associated body-worn camera video.
“The decrease proves several things,” according to a written statement from NPD Capt. Brian O’Hara, Consent Decree commander. “It shows our community policing efforts are paying off. We’re building better relations with the community and improving aspects of our training, such as de-escalation."
“Every patrol officer and their supervisors now (wear) body worn cameras. Videos tell the truth and add transparency for our officers and our community,” O'Hara wrote.
"From 2010 to 2014, the city paid out $1.3 million in excessive force settlements. Since then, Under the five years of the (Mayor) Ras Baraka administration, these settlements total $51,000, so clearly we’re doing something right," he said.
The decrease in excessive force was point of improvement among 11 others according to the Monitor's Community Survey, such as, people having increased feelings of general safety, reports of less worry of being a victim of a crime and more people seeing stops as legitimate.
Independent Monitor Peter Harvey led a public meeting in Newark on Nov. 19 and spoke at large about the need for then NPD to modernize its information technology and data systems to provide better response times and better deployment, not to mention to remain in alignment with consent decree requirements.
Harvey noted the sweeping IT enhancements would cost approximately $31.4 million over a four-year period, and includes the hiring of an IT Director. NPD reported that it has posted the IT Director position opening and applied to the Bureau of Justice Assistance National Training and Technical Assistance Center to help with the costs of the position.
The department is reviewing applicants and conducting interviews to fill this position.