Tag Archive: Garry McCarthy

NYPD Investigating Newark Muslim Community: Are We Not Americans, Too?

The author is West Ward councilman, City of Newark. – promoted by Rosi

The Star-Ledger reported last week that in mid to late 2007, the New York Police Department (NYPD) conducted extensive surveillance of Newark Muslim based businesses and mosques. The sad part of this poster child for religious profiling was that it was done with the full knowledge and cooperation of former Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy and without the knowledge of Newark Mayor Cory Booker, his boss. Even sadder is the fact that the 60-page Ccompiled report cited no evidence of terrorism or criminal behavior.

In a post-9/11 world in the tri-state area, most would understand an investigation based on probable cause or some intelligence indicating a national security threat. But  this type of arbitrary investigation, only known to an out of jurisdiction law enforcement agency, and the head of the investigated jurisdiction’s police department, apparently without federal cooperation based on some evidence of terrorism, is anti-American and chilling to all of our rights as citizens under the Constitution. We all need to be offended and embarrassed by the act and the lack of remorse by the NYPD.

Why I wrote the letter backing ACLU’s petition for federal investigation of the Newark Police Dept.

I authored and mailed a letter to Thomas E. Perez, Esq., the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights supporting the recent petition by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of NJ for a federal investigation into the Newark Police Department (NPD). I was pleased to be supported in that action by five of my colleagues on the Newark City Council, a majority.

I did so in full knowledge that the overwhelming majority of the men and women that serve in the NPD do so in an honorable and distinguished manner.  They put their lives on the line every day for me and the other 280,000 residents in our great city.  They are homeowners, coaches, and leaders of philanthropy in our metropolis. My colleagues and I are humbled by their service and their sacrifice.  

But, as a councilman, I also receive too many complaints about citizen abuse at the hands of the police, which our city cannot afford or tolerate.  I feel that the expertise and authority of an outside monitor to reform our department where needed will help to end the problems of police-community relations in Newark, which affects public safety and the quality of life on many levels. In short, we will never be able to continue to drive crime down beyond the admittedly record level of reductions over the last three years unless average citizens get more involved in reporting crime and joining the NPD as active eyes and ears to those that commit them. And they will not until they are assured that bad cops that abuse their authority are appropriately punished and/or drummed out of the ranks of the NPD when deserved and warranted.

This is not a new phenomenon in the city of Newark.  Indeed, I supported the re-nomination of Police Director Garry McCarthy due to his historic lowering of violent crime statistics in the last three years, but also due to his proposed courageous community relations/community engagement reforms that he has taken a year and a half to develop. He is the first Director to acknowledge the problems in the department AND to propose solutions. But this is an endemic problem that has lasted unabated, unchallenged and unaddressed for over 40 years through several mayors, city councils and police directors. And the city council that has oversight of the Administration does not have the power under our enabling statute, the Faulkner Act, to create what it would take to have effective oversight over these problems (a point I will address with our state legislative representatives before the year is out).  

Until such time that the state empowers the city council in Newark to create systems of accountability such as an Independent Monitor with a Citizen Review Board empowered with real subpoena and investigatory powers, I think a federal investigation that will propose institutional changes and correct old bad policies with real oversight is the way to go.

Petitioning Justice in Newark

promoted by Rosi

In the aftermath of Newark’s infamous 1967 unrest, with stacks of citizen complaints in hand, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey made an impassioned plea to the federal courts to rein in the rampant Newark Police Department.

Decades later, after countless lawsuits and campaigns for reform failed to bring order to the department, the ACLU-NJ has taken another serious measure to address grave injustices against Newark citizens. Today we petitioned the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Newark Police Department, building a case for the federal agency to end the entrenched patterns of police abuse.

New Jersey made history with its most famous federal intervention. The consent decree signed in 1999 to address the New Jersey State Police’s racial profiling practices brought major reforms to all areas of its operations. Similar consent decrees have transformed troubled police departments in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Los Angeles and inspired officials in New Orleans and Washington, D.C. to personally petition the DOJ to intervene.  

Police Reform Can Save Newark Money and Lives

promoted by Rosi

Faced with a $70 million budget gap, Mayor Cory Booker has proposed cost-cutting measures ranging from layoffs to shutting down city pools to wiping out the city’s toilet paper budget.

But one important area for potential multi-million dollar savings hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves: cutting the astronomical costs of police misconduct. Each year, Newark spends millions of dollars defending itself in lawsuits and paying out settlements to victims of police abuse.

The public hears little about police misconduct lawsuits because the vast majority of cases settle, and victims are typically forced to agree to remain silent as a condition of settlement. In addition, only settlements over $21,000 require approval from the city council. Public records about all settlements exist, but there is no central location, making it difficult for citizens who want to know the actual cost of police misconduct.

To uncover the true costs of police misconduct, the ACLU of New Jersey has combed court databases, meeting minutes and a battery of public records.

This is what we found: Between January 2008 and July 2010, there were 24 cases brought by citizens against the Newark Police that ended in settlement or arbitration. For the 19 cases those settlement amounts we could uncover, Newark paid out $1,041,617. That figure is only for cases that have already settled — there are another 31 cases pending. And that same 18 months, at least 51 tort claims were filed against the police department – notices of lawsuits to come.

The cases describe nightmarish encounters with police: beatings, malicious prosecution, arrests of people videotaping police, homophobic slurs, recklessly driven police cars, and at least one sexual assault. Many of the officers named in the cases have a history of complaints against them, including one who has racked up 62 Internal Affairs complaints and another with 45.

Starting Monday, the ACLU-NJ will publish the details of a dozen such cases – settled and pending – brought by citizens against the Newark police on its website. We will release one case per day for the next twelve business days. Until now, most of these cases had never seen the light of day.

In the same 18-month period, the ACLU-NJ uncovered 11 settlements and one verdict in cases in which the Newark Police Department was sued by its own employees. In these cases, Newark had to pay a total of $2,691,503. Again, this covers only cases that have concluded; there are another nine cases filed by employees pending. The details of the cases that already settled, which the ACLU-NJ released in July, not only reveal the high financial costs of police recklessness, but the costs to officer morale and their professionalism on patrol.

When counting the costs, it’s important to remember that the money paid to those who sue makes up just one part of the bill. Taxpayers also foot the enormous expense of municipal lawyers and outside law firms defending the city in these suits, as well as the legal fees the city must pay opposing counsel when it loses in court. In the case of Darren Nance, a terminated Newark Police officer who recently won a $600,000 verdict, the total cost of the city’s defense, the plaintiff’s legal fees and the calculation of interest owed to Nance will ultimately reach into the millions.

Make no mistake – this money comes from taxpayers. Newark doesn’t have liability insurance. In fact, the settlement money comes from a general liability line in the city budget, not from the budget of the police department, so the Newark Police Department does not directly feel the financial pain of the pain its officers inflict.

And the financial costs are only the ones we can easily quantify; the steeper costs are incalculable. In the words of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, “If individuals’ civil rights are compromised, public trust and confidence in the police are severely compromised.” In other words, police misconduct severely jeopardizes community safety and erodes the trust officers need from the public to effectively fight crime.

Lawsuits and settlements can serve as teachable moments: they can reveal important information regarding dangerous patterns and practices in a department. Our review of lawsuits against Newark shows identical problems and behaviors spanning decades. When properly utilized, this data can provide police leadership the information they need to institute better training and accountability systems. Simply paying out damages will only lead to more abuse and more costs for the citizens of Newark.

Instead of trying to smooth over its mistakes with payouts, Newark should invest in reforms that can generate massive returns – in dollars, in lives, and in public confidence – allowing Newark to chart a path toward a new identity as a lean organization that will respect individual rights as capably as it protects public safety.

Until then, the citizens will involuntarily foot the bill for officers who violate our rights and for leaders who neglect the underlying problems that have plagued a floundering department for decades.  

The True Costs of Police Misconduct

Retweet? @CoryBooker – do you have comment for @BlueJersey on ACLU charge of Newark transparency issues? – http://bit.ly/aSKiqg

— promoted by Rosi (link’s corrected, thanks MJ)

Two weeks ago, amid news of layoffs in Newark, the City and its taxpayers took yet another financial hit: a high dollar verdict for a former police officer mistreated by the Newark Police.

A jury awarded Darren Nance $600,000, finding that the Newark Police had racially discriminated and retaliated against him.

Once lawyers tally up interest for this verdict, legal fees for his attorneys, plus the two private law firms hired to defend Newark, this case will likely cost millions.

Most cities rely on insurance to cover misconduct-based payouts, but Newark is deemed too high risk to qualify for a policy. Instead, these payouts come out of the pockets of Newark taxpayers. And for every case like Nance’s that goes to trial, many others settle out of court behind closed doors.

It is difficult to know, therefore, the full financial impact of police misconduct on Newark  taxpayers. We’re also left in the dark about the details of the misconduct at the center of those cases, and whether the officers involved are sanctioned.

This is a shame because lawsuits – especially settled ones – can reveal dangerous practices in a department. And when individual officers are openly held accountable for the misconduct, it can deter others from engaging in similar acts.

To determine how much police misconduct cases cost Newark, and shed light on the underlying abuses, the ACLU of New Jersey has combed court databases, City Council minutes and other public records to find settlements.

We found that since January 2008, nine lawsuits by Newark police officers against the City were settled, with the settlements totaling $1,696,503. These cases primarily involve discrimination and retaliation.

Lawsuits from officers are just the tip of the iceberg. In that same time period, Newark  awarded at least 23 payouts to citizens filing lawsuits over mistreatment ranging from false arrest to death in custody. Those, too, come with a hefty price tag – $766,617 from the 18 cases for which we have settlement amounts.

More cases are coming through the pipeline. We have identified 27 pending cases ordinary citizens have filed against the Newark Police since January 2008, and seven more filed by employees.

And there are likely others; since information about these lawsuits is not publicly disseminated or maintained in a centralized placed, we couldn’t find every case filed against the Newark Police.

The costs go well beyond finances, of course. Lawsuits aside, police misconduct jeopardizes community safety and erodes the trust officers need from community members to effectively protect and serve.

But money matters, too, especially during a budget crisis. If the money Newark spends  to defend and compensate for police officers’ mistakes went towards reforms instead – training, technology, and resources for police – it would save money, lives, and public confidence in the long run.

The ACLU-NJ has an unwavering commitment to both government transparency and sound police practices. For the public’s benefit, starting today, the ACLU-NJ will publish “the dirty dozen” of these cases on our website – representing some of the most egregious claims of discrimination, retaliation, beatings, and internal affairs corruption. We will release one a day for the next twelve business days. Many of these settlements have never before seen the light of day.

Darren Nance, however, got his day in court. He started his career as a Newark police officer in 1989 and encountered racism in the department after just a few months on the job. He spent the next seven years fighting for his rights, until the Newark Police fired him in 1996.

The jury verdict for Nance, along with these settlements, demonstrates that justice for police abuses can indeed come. But it also demonstrates a disturbing pattern: we see the abuses described in Nance’s complaints from 15 years ago repeated in the settlements and pending lawsuits of today. The ACLU-NJ, which turned 50 this year, has fought the same kinds of abuses against Newark Police since our founding; change is overdue.

The only way to prevent the same mistakes, the same wounds, and the same payouts from the same stories is root out their sources. Otherwise, the citizens of Newark will continue to pay for bad apple officers who engage in abusive conduct and for managers and elected officials who fail to fix the underlying problems.

Newark: Loss and Recovery in a Rising City

Trial begins in Newark murders
Photo: AP

We don’t cover crime stories here. Not street crime, not usually. But these murders, of three of Newark’s shiniest young people – Dashon Harvey and Iofemi Hightower (20) & Terrance Aeriel (18) – and the grave wounding of Natasha Aeriel (now 22), chilled us like every loss of a young person does. There have been too many losses. But when these three were taken, something shifted in Newark. Policy changed on the backs of three kids swiftly executed Aug. 4, 2007.

The first trial, for the first defendant, began Tuesday. The jury saw pictures. The prosecutor will talk about gang initiation. Natasha Aeriel, under heavy security, is on the stand today.

These kids had managed to avoid some of the risks of the streets. Three were home on a break from college in Delaware, and Iofemi Hightower was about to become a freshman there. That night, Harvey, Hightower and Terrance Aerial were lined up against a wall and killed by a single shot to the base of their skulls. Terrance’s sister barely survived the attempt to end her.

A few months ago, I was driving around Newark with Ron C. Rice. We slowed the car as we passed by the playground where it happened. In his Ward, the West Ward. And he told me he goes by there every day, makes a point of it.

It’s impossible to know whether Newark’s Mayor and Council, elected in the first clean sweep in the city’s history (and most up for re-election in May) were galvanized by those murders or whether the city laid down its marker, with a community collectively deciding enough was enough, and politicians unready to get tough on crime could run elsewhere. That’s when anti-crime measures were ramped up. Cameras on the streets. Billboards paid for by the Newark teachers’ union: HELP WANTED: Stop the Killings in Newark Now! Penalties for gun owners failing to report lost or stolen weapons. Gun-shot detection systems. New access to a national gun-tracking database.

By the end of 2008, Newark’s murder rate had dropped by nearly 40%, though it bumped last year from 68 to 79. Last month, with the city holding its breath, Newark had its first month without homicide in 40 years.

But it isn’t so simple. Both Cory Booker and Police Director Garry McCarthy have to answer for a loss in public trust after charges of excessive force. And hassling innocent people. And inadeqate professional guidelines for the police force. Reform is crucial, if innocent people – especially young people – feel their rights violated.

Outside of Newark, we talk sometimes about the meaning of a Newark Renaissance. We all have a stake in it, live there or not. And plenty of people don’t see one … yet. The City has to do this right. And Mayor Booker, Councilman Rice, every police officer and elected leader should live or die not only on crime statistics but on protecting the civil rights of every person living in New Jersey’s rising City. Especially the young Dashons, Iofemis, Terrances, and Natashas whose names we don’t know yet, and who are just now dreaming of their futures.  

Notes for Brick City, 4th Night: Conflict and Resistance to Real Change

Apologies to all who have been following along as Newark Councilman Ron Rice chronicled Sundance Channel’s 5-night documentary about his city, Brick City. We were both in Atlantic City, and the Trump folks screwed up my internet, so I couldn’t help post this till now. It’s still worth reading, and Brick City is worth looking for, in cable On Demand and in replay. The series drew considerable attention to Mayor Cory Booker and the city council and police department he works, and the people who live in NJ’s largest city. Ron watched every episode, then wrote about it in the wee hours of the morning – Newark’s leaders keep late hours. Expect this series to be in competition for film awards, and expect it to be shown again. Here’s Ron, about Night Four.  – – promoted by Rosi

On the 4th night of Sundance Channel’s Brick City, you see a major internal city government fight in Newark during 2008: who will run the Newark Police Department, the Police Director or the Police Chief? Both men, Director Garry McCarthy and Chief Anthony Campos, are hardworking men of their word and fighting the good fight.  Campos, however, is a Newark born and bred cop from the city’s Portugese community that rose up through the ranks to a top law enforcement position.  Director McCarthy is an Irish cop from NYC. Some, in the city and within the Police Department, have a strong case of xenophobia, an irrational fear and/or resentment of outsiders, some of it justified, some of it is a knee jerk fall back position that helps to stop change in our city.  Its roots are found in the resentment of the city’s African American and Latino population to the white flight that started in the ’40s, picked up steam in the ’50s, and was complete in the late ’60s and early ’70s.  It is also grounded in the fact that Newark’s population during the day swells to close to 500,000, but goes back down to 281,000 after 5:00 PM.  Many feel that people just use our city to make money, get what they need and have no real commitment to our city or its people.  So, the attitude is stay out, we that live here can solve our own problems without anyone’s help and indeed, we don’t want any new immigrants, income diverse people from NYC and other places, etc. coming to “our” city because it just means trouble. Add to the mix that the Police Director is trying to change a culture within the Department, change policing techniques to be more aggressive (he has moved lots of desk police back to street patrol and altered a department that had a majority of its force working 9 to 5 to working when crime actually occurs), and the fact that Mayor Booker was not born and raised in Newark and you see the resentment of the “outsiders” trying to take over Newark at the expense of good, Newark born people like Campos and others that were laid off from City Hall as we shrink government and the new businesses and condos that are coming downtown.  In the end, the city council supported the Mayor and his request to support him by supporting the man he brought in to lead the agency to record reductions in crime, but I like the comment that has traction beyond this fight from David Cruz, on air personality at our Jazz 88 radio station in Newark: “No matter how much good you get done, there is always someone that will put out something that you are F@#king up on.”

You get a really good inside look at gang life in the city. Jiwe, an author and Blood member says that as long as there is poverty, no jobs, projects, crack, there will be gangs.  It is hard not to like Jiwe as he knocks down stereotypes. He is intelligent, prolific, clear minded, but gang related, like Jayda. You see why gang life is attractive in poor urban communities because it is not all violence, murder and drug dealing.  In fact, that is only a part of it (a major part, but not the only one). Gang life is family, support, even fun times. It is protection, acceptance and, yes, love in a world where Todd Warren said last night, men do not know how to show love to one another. Crime is a small exchange for this sense of belonging that no one else is offering or providing. The key challenge is, how do we take these gangs and make them gangs that support our community and indeed build community in Newark?  How do we educate them and make them emulate groups like the Black Panthers that fed our communities, politically educated themselves and others and protected our neighborhoods from crime and destruction?

Jayda’s case progresses. Now that she is doing right, old bad habits and her past could disrupt it. This is a message to all of our young people that your past can be an anchor around your neck so don’t start down that path in the first place.

Ringling Bros circus comes back to Newark. The Prudential Arena has been a mixed blessing for the city of Newark. Good events, spurring new venues and nightlife in downtown Newark, great events like Miley Cyrus, Lil Wayne, Gospel fest, and Devil’s hockey (when r we going to get out of the first round of the playoffs). But the perception is that there is too much police protection for the “outsiders” that come here to the city to just use us and take vitally needed police protection from the neighborhoods.  The city has also been in constant fight mode with the Devils over non payment of rent, lack of needed certificates of occupancy, water bill payments, even street and campus improvements that they are responsible for all after the fact that the city has done all we promised.

Lastly, we meet Hood Ru, Blood gang member and friend to Jiwe’s set…briefly, because he commits suicide. Gang life is hard and a hard life and the lesson that all, not some, will eventually end up dead, in jail for extended periods of time making them unemployable, or crazy mentally just does not get through. Gang life, no matter what Jiwe and others may say in the documentary, are recipes for an early death, a lifetime of abject poverty, and relegation to a permanent underclass as well as their progeny and offspring that will come into the world with two strikes against them and worst odds for a better life than his mom or dad. but most in that lifestyle don’t think they will live that long.  Most do, and their lives are many times unsaveable. Stay tuned.

Brick City aired five straight nights this week, on the Sundance Channel. Expect it to be rebroadcast.

Censored in the City

Promoted by Jason Springer

Last night, after having become a voice in the recent dialogue over Newark’s crime statistics, I was slated to appear on WBGO-FM’s weekly call-in show Newark Today with Mayor Booker and Newark Police Director McCarthy. Unfortunately, the Mayor and Director nixed my appearance, and WBGO allowed it happen.

Here’s the background. The ACLU-NJ represents three young Newarkers who suffered abuse at the hands of the Newark Police and then had their complaints mishandled by Internal Affairs. When we met with city officials in September about the case, we discussed some of the problems and shortcomings with Internal Affairs (IA), and provided a list of reforms we believe will make the Internal Affairs system more accessible. The city’s representatives expressed concern and promised to look into the possibility of implementing our reforms, and the dialogue is ongoing.

So when I received an email saying that the Mayor and Police Director would hold a press conference on Wednesday to tout both their very impressive reduction in murders and the reduction in citizen complaints to IA, I was surprised.  I couldn’t quite believe that they felt it was appropriate to tout the reduced IA stats with some many flaws left in the system. A reduction in complaints filed with Internal Affairs does not necessarily mean a reduction in police misconduct.