- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - The mayor of New Jersey’s largest city announced Tuesday what he characterized as a first step in reforming a problem-plagued police force with the creation of a civilian complaint review board, the first in the city’s history.

The announcement by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka came six months after the U.S. Justice Department said it would appoint a federal monitor to oversee the police department after its three-year investigation revealed systemic misconduct and a lack of accountability.

Some details on the review board:

WHAT IT IS:

A nine-member board made up of an inspector general, three members appointed by the city council and five recommended by a roster of local and national groups that includes the NAACP, American Civil Liberties Union and the People’s Organization for Progress. Only the inspector general will be a former member of the police department.

WHAT IT WILL DO:

The board will investigate complaints from civilians alleging police misconduct such as excessive use of force, unlawful stops and searches and unlawful arrests. It also will investigate complaints filed by police officers or personnel against other officers. The board will have subpoena power.

WHAT IT WON’T DO:

The board won’t have the authority to impose sanctions or discipline. Instead, it will make recommendations to the police director who will decide what actions are needed using a yet-to-be-created discipline “matrix,” Baraka said.

WHY IT WAS CREATED:

The creation of a review board was one of the terms agreed to by the city when the Justice Dept.’s findings were announced in July. The report alleged Newark police used excessive force, routinely stopped people for no legitimate reason and regularly stole property from civilians. It blamed the department’s system for investigating citizen complaints, which, the report claimed, upheld only one excessive force complaint over a six-year period.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:

“The civilian complaint review board gives us the ability to show a lot of courage, to accept the fact that we have some law enforcement practices that we have to improve” - Police Director Eugene Venable.

“We welcome the monitor and we are determined and proud to work with the monitor to put the reforms in place, but in Newark we believe we can rehabilitate ourselves and do what is necessary so that the monitor would have no place in our city” - Baraka.

“We look forward to working with the mayor on issues that include making sure that any discipline that is recommended by the CCRB actually sticks. That’s an area of concern that’s been present in CCRBs throughout the country. We want to make sure Newark doesn’t’ repeat those same failures.” - Udi Ofer, ACLU New Jersey executive director.

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