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Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez Speaks at the Newark Police Department Investigation Press Conference
Newark, N.J. ~ Monday, May 9, 2011

Thank you, Paul.   I also want to thank Mayor Booker for his cooperation as we begin this process.   Acting Director DeMaio, we look forward to working with you and the entire NPD.   And I would also like to acknowledge outgoing Director McCarthy and wish him success in Chicago.   We all have a shared interest in ensuring that the Newark P.D. is a world class police department, and I appreciate the Mayor’s spirit of collaboration.

 

As Paul mentioned already, the Civil Rights Division, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, conducted a preliminary inquiry and concluded that it would be necessary and appropriate to begin a formal civil pattern or practice investigation.  Our investigation will focus on allegations of excessive force, unconstitutional stops, searches, arrests and seizures, discriminatory policing, whether officers retaliate against people who observe and/or record police activity and conditions of confinement at the Green Street Lockup.  

 

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman and I have put together a top notch team of lawyers and staff.   We are retaining experts in policing, and we will reach out to a wide range of stakeholders.    We will hear from officers in the NPD, people elsewhere within the administration, key stakeholders in the criminal justice system, and the community at large.   

 

The Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section conducts pattern or practice investigations to determine whether there are systemic problems in a police department’s practices and procedures that result in the violation of people’s basic rights under the Constitution and laws of the United States. Our goal is to conduct a fair, thorough and independent review and find the truth.   We will follow the facts where they lead us.  

 

Over the course of the past 15 years, the Division has worked collaboratively with police departments and communities across the country to address systemic challenges in policing, and to identify and implement wide ranging and comprehensive solutions that reduce crime, protect the rule of law and ensure public confidence in law enforcement.    Our experience has been that the most effective and sustainable reform occurs when we work together with the Department, and the entire community.   We are currently working collaboratively, for instance, with key stakeholders in Seattle and New Orleans.

 

We do not prejudge our investigations- we gather all available facts to determine whether violations have occurred.   Our line of communication will be open, and we will provide real time feedback to the Department.   Our goal is to fix problems, not fix blame, and we view the Mayor’s office, the City Council, the NPD and the community as partners in this important effort. We have the greatest respect for the members of the NPD who work tirelessly to protect this city, and we look forward to hearing directly from them. We are equally interested in learning from the community, and we will provide outlets for community involvement in this process.

 

At the conclusion of our investigation, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman and I will provide you with a thorough and independent assessment of our findings.   If violations have occurred, we will work collaboratively with all stakeholders to develop and implement a blueprint for sustainable reform that will reduce crime; ensure respect for the Constitution and the rule of law; and ensure public confidence in the Police Department.  

 

The recent layoffs of 167 officers, and now the transition in leadership, make this is a challenging time for the NPD.   But these challenges also present an opportunity for new ideas to develop and implement best practices where they are needed.   I have great optimism that, working together, we can ensure that the NPD is providing the residents of Newark with the services and protection they deserve because effective, accountable policing is critical for any healthy community.

 

We look forward to your cooperation as the Civil Rights Division conducts its independent investigation, and hope to work collaboratively to forge comprehensive solutions to any problems that we may find.   

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