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Feds find Newark police violated citizens' constitutional rights

Newark mayor says city looks forward to improving police practices

CNN  — 

The Justice Department and the city of Newark have reached a settlement after a yearslong investigation into the Newark Police Department’s practices, according to an announcement Wednesday.

Investigators found that NPD officers were violating citizens’ rights under the First, Fourth and 14th amendments to the Constitution by engaging in illegal stops, searches, arrests, use of excessive force and theft by officers. All these practices were found to disproportionately affect minority communities, according to the Justice Department

“The Police Department’s relationship with the people of the city has suffered dramatically from the combination of those practices,” Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, said in a statement.

“Community trust has deteriorated, and that in turn has compromised the effectiveness of the department. Today we are taking a major step toward breaking that cycle.”

The agreement, which awaits approval from the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, will provide officers with in-car and body cameras, reform “use-of-force” policies including de-escalating techniques, revise search and seizure policies, and integrate bias-free policing principles into all levels of the police department, according to the Justice Department.

“This agreement holds the potential to make Newark a national model for constitutional, effective and accountable community policing in the 21st century,” said Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

The investigation dates to May 2011 and the findings were announced in July 2014. The Justice Department is enforcing 20 similar agreements with law enforcement agencies around the country, including the Ferguson Police Department, the Cleveland Division of Police, and the Detroit Police Department.

“We look forward to the work that we are going to do .. to make sure our police department is policing in a constitutional manner,” said Ras Baraka, the mayor of Newark.

A team of Justice Department experts led by former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey will monitor the city of Newark’s compliance with the agreement, according to the Justice Department.