- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Newark’s city council has advanced a plan to create the municipality’s first-ever civilian review board to oversee police conduct.

Creating the board was one of the changes ordered by the federal Justice Department in 2014 after a three-year federal investigation found systemic misconduct and insufficient oversight in the city’s police department.

The city council approved the plan on first reading on Wednesday and will take a final vote next month, a council spokesman said.

Mayor Ras Baraka said the board would have the power to issue subpoenas and conduct investigations and would establish a program to help residents with complaints reach resolution.

It would review complaints including those alleging excessive use of force, abuse of authority, unlawful stop or arrest and unlawful search. Findings would be forwarded to the police director for possible disciplinary action.

The federal report released in July 2014 found that Newark police routinely used excessive force, stopped people on the street for no legitimate reason and regularly stole property from civilians.

The report blamed deficiencies in the police department’s systems for detecting and preventing misconduct, including its investigation of citizen complaints.

For example, the Justice Department investigation found that over a six-year period, only one excessive force complaint was upheld by the police department.

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