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Justice Department Investigation Uncovers Routine Conduct Which Suggests Police are Racists and Thieves

The results of a Justice Department (DOJ) investigation into the Newark Police Department show the police force engages in a routine pattern of unconstitutional policing. Police illegally stop thousands of pedestrians without articulating any “reasonable suspicion” for stopping them. They unconstitutionally arrest people, and the department’s lawless policing disproportionately affects black residents.

The investigation is one of at least 17 investigations into city police departments that have been launched by the DOJ under President Barack Obama.

The Department’s Civil Rights Division launched the investigation in May 2011 to assess “serious allegations” that Newark police subjects “residents to excessive force, unwarranted stops, and arrests, and discriminatory police actions.” And the division examined the period between January 2009 and June 2012.

The findings [PDF] show a clear record of racist policing by the Newark Police Department. Black people were found to be 2.5 times more likely to be “subjected to a pedestrian stop than a white person.” They were 2.7 times more likely to be “subjected to searches.” They were 3.1 times more likely to be frisked.

Yet, according to the department’s own documentation, the likelihood of police uncovering evidence was similar for both demographics. In 13.6% of frisks of whites and in 12.7% of frisks of blacks, evidence was uncovered. In 14.2% of searches of whites and in 14.8% of searches of blacks, evidence was uncovered.

Fifty-three percent of Newark residents are black. Twenty-six percent are white. Of 84,396 arrests, 79.3% were black while 6.6% were white.

The DOJ found that Newark police often used the “conclusory phrase ‘suspicious person’ without articulating any facts that establish actual reasons for suspicion.” This occurred in 1,500 illegal stops. Eighty-five percent of these illegal stops were of individuals identified by officers as black while 15% of these stops were of individuals identified as white. As the report concluded, this is a “proportion starkly inconsistent with Newark’s demographic breakdown.”

What makes this all worse is the Newark police appear to have no concern for whether they might be engaged in racist policing or not. The DOJ noted that the department “fails to track and analyze data with respect to race,” “which is unusual.”

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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