- Associated Press - Friday, May 6, 2016

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A federal judge has approved a settlement between the federal government and New Jersey’s largest city over the way its police department conducts its business, officials announced Friday.

Newark’s police department will shift to a more community-focused approach to policing, add more training and submit to federal monitoring as part of a consent decree resulting from a Justice Department probe that found that officers routinely used excessive force and made street stops that disproportionately affected minorities.

District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo approved the agreement Thursday, including the installation of former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey to serve as monitor over the department for the next five years. Harvey served as attorney general when New Jersey’s state police department was under a federal consent decree over racial profiling.

“This consent decree, now approved by the court, provides a roadmap for reform in Newark and a model for best practices for police departments across the country,” U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said in a statement. “Implementing the systemic changes outlined in the consent decree will take time, but this is what the city of Newark and the men and women who serve in the police department want and need, and it is what the people of Newark deserve: a first-class police department that keeps them safe and respects their constitutional rights.”

The settlement agreement will require Newark police to revise policies and train on the use of force, stops and searches. Newark police will also equip all patrol cars with video cameras and require most officers to wear body cameras.

The Justice Department’s three-year investigation, released in July 2014, validated many allegations in a 2010 American Civil Liberties Union complaint that accused police of rampant misconduct, use of excessive force and lax internal oversight.

The investigation also found that over a 3 ½-year period, 75 percent of pedestrian stops were made without constitutionally adequate reasons, often targeting people who were merely in high-crime areas.

Eighty-five percent of those stopped were black in a city where blacks make up 54 percent of the population.

Among requirements contained in the agreement, all officers will undergo eight hours of training on bias-free policing within six months, and at least four hours annually thereafter. The department also will track and analyze all interactions between police and civilians and note race, age and ethnicity and whether force was used.

The cost of monitoring will be borne by the city of Newark and will be capped at roughly $7.5 million over the course of the agreement, Fishman said.

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