NEWARK, NJ — A Newark police officer is under investigation following an incident captured on video showing the officer punching a man in the face and head while subduing him on Tuesday night, according to city officials.
Mayor Ras Baraka released a statement soon after the footage began to circulate on Facebook on Wednesday, saying the officer had been relieved of his gun and reassigned while the Newark Police Internal Affairs Bureau evaluated the "egregious" matter.
“The video of the incident last night, in which Newark officers used force to subdue a resident is very troubling and extremely counter to the kind of police force we demand to have in Newark," Baraka said. "The video of the incident last night, in which Newark officers used force to subdue a resident is very troubling and extremely counter to the kind of police force we demand to have in Newark."
Newark Department of Public Safety said police were responding to a disturbance complaint on the 300 block of Halsey Street and confirmed the arrest made is under investigation by Internal Affairs.
"I will be reviewing all body-worn video. The officer involved will be taken off the street and assigned to desk duty until a comprehensive investigation by our Use of Force Unit and Office of Professional Responsibility reviews the entire case," Public Safety Directory Anthony Ambrose said in a statement.
The video shows the unidentified man arguing with and swearing at police officers when another man pulls him away momentarily. When the man returns and continues swearing at the officer, who is also not named, the officer is seen punching the man in the face and the man drops to the ground.
The officer and another officer attempt to cuff the man, who struggles, when the officer under investigation begins to punch the man in the head repeatedly. Bystanders shout at the officer to stop, with one woman yelling that the officer is going to "break his arm."
Under the Baraka administration, the city has seen sweeping police reforms following a 2014 report showing a pattern of civil rights violations by Newark officers and internal failures to properly investigate them. As a result, the city entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2016.
Newark Police Division also operates under a federal monitor and is currently fighting in the state Supreme Court for its Civilian Complaint Review Board to investigate public complaints against police using subpoenas.
Baraka addressed citizens on Facebook Wednesday evening, reiterating the city's commitment to ensuring fair and equitable community policing.
"Our police force has been working hard to improve community relations and build trust to the point that our citizen complaints have decreased significantly—and we want to stay on that path," he said.