June 23, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NCAP RESTATES POSITION FOR STRONG POLICE REVIEW BOARDS
CALLS ON NJ ASSEMBLY TO HONOR HISTORIC MOMENT
In the wake of confused and contentious maneuvering around what can be a groundbreaking legislative enactment of police reform, Newark Communities for Accountable Policing (NCAP), plainly restated its position for ‘strong’ Civilian Review Boards and the passing of other related strong police reform measures in a letter to the NJ State Assembly today.
Just Monday, NCAP played a central role in bringing together a number of organizations to the NJ Statehouse to rally for the passage of A4656 (McKnight D-Hudson), a bill enabling the creation of Civilian Review Boards for any municipality seeking one. Advocates with the NCAP effort have all insisted, as NCAP has insisted from its onset, that for CCRBs to be effective they must have “subpoena power, community representation, concurrent investigations, and disciplinary recommendations.”
Although CCRBs exist in other places, and some go as far back as 1966, none have the powers sought after by the Newark, New Jersey model. Serious social justice critics agree that CCRBs have not made any difference in calls for Police Reform because they lack this authority. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Newark City Council created a model that made CCRBs relevant again to long standing calls for meaningful reform. Last August, the NJ Supreme Court ruled against Newark bid to enact a board with that strength, but yielded that it could be re-established if it were first enacted by statewide legislation.
The moment for that legislation to be enacted had come this week, so many thought, only to find out that the CCRB Bill had suddenly been “pulled” from being on track for an Assembly vote.
NCAP, in a letter annexed to this release, is restating its original stance and asserts that many of the other organizations who participated in Monday’s statehouse rally will do so also.
“The Newark CCRB structure is a model for the state and nation, and now requires legislative changes for it to realize the promise of its power. We urge the Legislature to support legislation that allows for the creation of municipal-level civilian complaint boards with the key features that were originally afforded to the Newark CCRB.”
Monday’s rally also called for the passage of the Police Transparency Bill S2656 (Weinberg D-Bergen), which would make the records of disciplined police officers public and end the remove the shroud of secrecy that has tainted investigations of police officers for decades and the George Floyd Bill S2617 (Turner D-Mercer), banning and criminalizing chokeholds like that which used to kill Floyd in spectacle fashion tragically.
June 23, 2021
Assembly Speaker Coughlin
Members of the NJ State Assembly
Re: Strong Civilian Oversight of Police
To the New Jersey State Assembly:
In the haunting shadows of the spectacle death of George Floyd, on the heels of this country’s most epic moment of protest last summer, at a moment that challenges all of us to go beyond where we are to be the change that needs to happen, we write today to urge you to support strong civilian oversight review boards. Civilian oversight of police requires strong powers: subpoena power, community representation, concurrent investigations, and disciplinary recommendations.
The need for civilian oversight emerged as a result of unchecked police power, which is made possible by a nearly complete lack of transparency in police disciplinary practices, upheld by secret internal affairs investigations that rarely impose discipline, and has led to a well-documented lack of accountability and transparency, misconduct, violence, and racially disparate policing practices that disproportionately target communities of color. Internal affairs investigations sustain complaints and impose discipline of officers at incredibly low rates, compounding to the already frayed community relationships with police.
Civilian review boards (CRBs) provide an avenue for police accountability while reshaping policing practices and give civilians a meaningful voice in decisions over officer discipline, which, in turn, would lead to changes in relationships between community members and police departments. For more than 50 years, Newark residents have been calling for police accountability through a civilian oversight board, and over the years, communities around the state have joined the calls.
In 2010, ACLU-NJ submitted a petition to the U.S. Department of Justice that documented 418 allegations of Newark Police Department (NPD) abuse from a two and a half year period. This petition resulted in a three year investigation of the NPD and, in 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report documenting findings of widespread civil rights and civil liberties violations in Newark policing. These violations included unconstitutional and racially discriminatory stop-and-frisk and arrest practices, excessive use of force, punishment of Newarkers exercising their First Amendment rights, quotas, theft by officers, and a failed internal affairs system.
In 2014, our community groups formed a coalition called Newark Communities for Accountable Policing (N-CAP) to push for powerful civilian oversight of the NPD. After examining the successes and pitfalls of CRBs in other states, Newark residents pushed for a model that included meaningful investigatory powers over individual complaints and oversight of discipline. Less than a year later, in 2015, Mayor Baraka introduced an ordinance, and the Newark Civilian Complaint Review Board was enacted as one of the most robust civilian oversight bodies in the country.
Newark’s police unions immediately challenged the CCRB’s authority, delaying, and now hampering, the City’s ability to implement its oversight board as intended. On August 19, 2020, a New Jersey Supreme Court decision in the case Fraternal Order of Police, Newark Lodge No. 12 v. the City of Newark acknowledged the benefits of community oversight, but found that state statutes prevented Newark’s CCRB from operating as the City intended. The Court identified the legislative fixes necessary and held that until the Legislature amends relevant statutes, the Newark CCRB will not be able to issue subpoenas and its investigatory powers will be limited.
The Newark CCRB structure is a model for the state and nation, and now requires legislative changes for it to realize the promise of its power. We urge the Legislature to support legislation that allows for the creation of municipal-level civilian complaint boards with the key features that were originally afforded to the Newark CCRB.
N-CAP continues to urge the Legislature to include additional necessary powers for civilian oversight to be a real difference, including: subpoena power, concurrent investigatory power with no waiting periods, records transparency, and inclusion of individuals with criminal records. We strongly urge the New Jersey Assembly to support strong powers for civilian oversight.
No more George Floyds! Transparent Oversight of the Police Now!
Newark Communities for Accountable Policing