LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Federal monitor discusses process of reforming Newark PD

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

The Newark Police Department has made some progress on the use of force and bias-free policing. Policies adopted under a consent decree imposed by the U.S. Department of Justice in the face of rampant civil rights violations. The Independent Federal Monitor charged with overseeing the city’s progress is Former State Attorney General Peter Harvey. He recently sat down with Michael Hill.

Hill: We’re covering a period from June 1 to Sept. 30 and I want to talk about, you finalized two policies — revised use of force and the first bias-free policing policy as well — with the help of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which is not fully operational because it’s being challenged in court. How did this get done and what does this mean?

Harvey: Well, the Newark Police writes the policy. It then gets sent to the Department of Justice in Washington for its review and the U.S Attorney’s Office here in Newark for its review as well. Both are part of the Department of Justice. After they have reached a consensus of what the language ought to be for modern policy, it then gets sent to the monitoring team and we review it. We also try and provide technical assistance, meaning we try and show the Newark Police policies from other jurisdictions that are engaging in modern policing, some of which has been through a consent decree and their policies have been approved by DOJ. Now, to your question, your question is about the Civilian Complaint Review Board. The state court judge that has enjoined the operation of the Civilian Complaint Review Board has allowed it to review the policies of the Newark Police, so we’ve been getting their feedback. But irrespective of that court litigation and that court order, we were sending the policies to the organizations that comprised the CCRB so that they could give us their input. And then we have public meetings with members of the public so we hear from everybody. We want everyone’s voice to be heard and to be a participant in this process.

Hill: How different is the use of force policy that’s being adopted here, is going to be implemented eventually, how different is it from what it was, say on July 21, 2014, before the Justice Department came out with its reform?

Harvey: It’s a very good question. It is one of methodology and approach of ideology. Some use of force policies say, use force this way under these circumstances and you can’t use force this way. This policy is structured in a way that says, you cannot use force except under these circumstances. So the theory of it is, force should not be your first course of action. You should not use it unless certain discreet circumstances exist. So we’re looking at both at protecting the public and officers’ safety.

Hill: So what about bias-free policing? What does that mean?

Harvey: That is a new policy for Newark, and indeed for most cities. Very few cities, let me put it this way, have bias-free policing as a policy. In other words, you shall not engage in using a person’s immutable characteristics, demographics, purely to engage in policing. So you can’t just stop people because they’re black. You can’t stop them because they’re Latin. You can’t stop them because they’re Southern Asian. You can’t stop them because they’re Muslim. You have to have conduct that rises to the level of probable cause for you to engage them. Now, you’re going to see, very soon, we are working on policies that will probably be completed this month, January 2018, that are companions to the bias-free policing. They involve investigatory stops. They also involve civilian stops that do not result from any investigative conduct. And part of what those policies will affirm, and the Newark Police have been working really hard on completing these policies, is that if you stop a civilian for no reason, that civilian has the right to just walk away from you.

Hill: That’s dramatically different.

Harvey: It’s dramatically different in this city because, number one, it’s being expressed in policy. Number two, it will be expressed in training, and number three, it’s consistent with the state Constitution as well as the federal Constitution. But it’s a formal policy, soon to be.

Hill: Mr. Harvey, these are things that are policies for manuals. What about training officers who are going to implement these policies on the street?

Harvey: An excellent question. Let’s start from the end of the story. Our interaction with the police gets better because police officers are better informed about what the law allows and disallows. In order for officers to be informed, they have to go through training. In order for them to go through that training, you have to write the training, and you have to write it in scenarios. So you give the officer a scenario, you give the officer some multiple choice questions and you ask the officer to pick one of four and you explain what’s right and wrong. But you can’t write that training until you finish writing the policy, which is why both the Newark Police, as well as the monitoring team, have been pushing the Department of Justice, for example, in Washington to review these policies quickly because I think with the second consent decree implementation team that Director Ambrose has put in place, they have been working hard, and I might say, quite efficiently. We’ve run into some slowness because of DOJ review because they’re in a lot of different cities, but we’ve been pushing them hard to complete their reviews sooner rather than later.

Hill: So these policies, we will see these enacted, when do you think?

Harvey: You will see an in-camera policy probably adopted in February, it will be finished this month. You will see a body camera policy in the same time period. You will see an investigatory stop policy, a stop arrest detention policy, all those policies are going to be completed this month and we’re really trying to complete as well the internal affairs policy this month.

Hill: So Newark residents who encounter police officers on the street will notice a difference this year in their encounters with police.

Harvey: Yes, but remember the policy is the first step. We then have to write the training. By saying we, the Newark Police has to write the training. We are trying to get experts, and Director Ambrose has identified experts, whom he wants to bring into the city to help them develop this modern training with respect to use of force, with respect to stop arrest detention. We are trying to get the funding secured for this right now. One of the problems is the Department of Justice, while it has these community-oriented policing programs, cops programs, they don’t have any money. And so you can sit and prepare a grant application and ask them for funding, it’s not until very late in the game that they tell you they don’t actually have any money. So we’re looking for private sources of funding to fund experts, and these are experts who are national experts. They have a lot of this training already written, they would come into the city, make it Newark specific, they would help police officers learn to write the training so we institutionalize it in the department.