Community Survey Aims to Help Reform Newark Police Department

By Michael Hill

More than 100 Newark residents braved wind chills in the teens to come to Bethany Baptist Church to take a consent decree community survey.

“We used all of our normal channels of advertisement to get both our church members and local community members to come out as well,” said Rev. Timothy Jones, senior pastor at Bethany Baptist Church.

The survey takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete with a potential impact to reform the Newark Police Department for a generation or more. Three years ago, the Justice Department found — among other things — numerous constitutional violations in how some officers police the streets. A consent decree requires federal monitor Peter Harvey to survey residents about their suggestions for reform and their perceptions of and interactions with Newark police.

“I’ve had some interesting experiences with the police to say the least,” said Lynda Lloyd. “Both [positive and negative].”

National Urban Fellow Lloyd is a lifelong Newark resident.

“We have demands for the police and we talk a lot on the community level but we need to come out and participate officially so that our voices and opinions can be appropriately documented,” she said.

Lloyd is leery of officers wearing body cameras because she says on a national level recorded misdeeds have gone unpunished. She favors better and ongoing training, community policing and officers living where they serve.

“Unions will probably push back on that, but I think once you live amongst the population of people that you serve you would serve them a bit differently,” she said.

Lloyd says the federal court order protects the reform process underway here from any potential retreat by the new administration in Washington and she insists the power is in the people.

“There’s certain things that we can say the federal government may not be fans of but the power of the people and the pressure from the people could help shift this paradigm,” Lloyd said.

Jones took the survey, too, hoping it leads to real reform.

“Reforms that would lead to better relationships pre-crisis, pre- arrests, pre-trauma, pre-crime would be the kinds of things I would love to see,” he said.

This is another step in a series of survey-taking Saturdays by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. The goal, of course, is to take the pulse of the people of Newark.

“And for five decades, city residents have been seeking to build a law enforcement department with whom they have trust and really seek to imagine what the relationship can look like between law enforcement officials and community members. And so today is an important step in understanding how community members view the relationship as it stands right now between law enforcement and community leaders,” said New Jersey Institute for Social Justice President and CEO Ryan Haygood.

The Institute for Social Justice has scheduled three more Saturdays for consent decree survey taking so Newark residents can help reform their police department.