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Newark asks residents for feedback on policing and public safety

Cyril Josh Barker | 3/9/2017, midnight
Saturday, Newark residents completed surveys about policing in the city at the Training, Education and Recreation Center in the Dayton ...
Newark, New Jersey File

Saturday, Newark residents completed surveys about policing in the city at the Training, Education and Recreation Center in the Dayton neighborhood. It was one of five sessions set up over the next month.

Mayor Ras J. Baraka and Public Safety Director Anthony F. Ambrose announced last week that the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and the Newark Department of Public Safety’s Police Division’s Independent Monitor are hosting the community survey events for residents, so they can give their opinions and ideas about public safety and policing in Newark over five Saturdays.

At the free public event, residents will have the opportunity to fill out questionnaires regarding their experiences, both positive and negative, with Newark’s police, fire and emergency services. The surveys are available in Spanish, Portuguese and English. Volunteers will be available to answer questions by residents. Refreshments will be provided. A list of locations, dates and times will be provided.

“We are making good on our promise to bring about real reform, real change and true transparency in public safety,” said Baraka. “As part of building trust between our police and the community, it is important to hear from residents what we can be doing better as well as what they are pleased with.”

Last year, The U.S. Department of Justice and Newark reached an agreement to correct police behavior in Newark after a 2014 reports found that officers engaged in the use of excessive force along with illegal and discriminatory policing practices.

The findings revealed that 75 percent of the time, police had unclear reasons for stopping people. Black residents said that gang and drug units stole personal property. As a result, officers were trained in de-escalation techniques, required to wear body cameras and required to collect information on stops and arrests.

The ACLU of New Jersey expressed concerns about the Newark Police Department’s arrest of 13 people on charges of prostitution and solicitation of prostitution in September 2016. The arrests were part of what the civil rights group called an increase in the arrest of Newark residents for low-level violations.

In October 2016, the New Jersey Senate passed a bill requiring independent investigations when someone dies at the hands of law enforcement.

Baraka said, “This survey will give Newarkers the opportunity to speak their minds directly to our monitor and our public safety leaders. We are listening and will act on what we hear.”