Late yesterday, the Justice Department and U. S. Attorney Paul Fishman announced that they're investigating possible civil rights violations by the Newark Police Department.
The inquiry will evaluate whether the Police Department's practices are in violation of federal law, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Officials have begun conducting interviews and reviewing records to determine whether officers have a pattern of illegal stops and frisks and use of excessive force against civilians.
"Our goal is not to blame, but to fix any problems we might find," Fishman said at a news conference Monday.
One factor in this investigation--a complaint by the New Jersey ACLU which alleges over 400 civil rights violations from 2008 to 2010, some of which resulted in people dying. Newark police director Gerry McCarthy, who is due to become Chicago's police superintendent, asked the Justice Department for help after the ACLU's complaint came to light last year.
Fishman is also looking into allegations that Newark cops frequently retaliate against people observing police activity. For instance, back in March 2010, a high school student in Newark was briefly detained while recording police attending to a stricken man on a bus, but released her when they finally realized they had no lawful basis to hold her.
The way it looks so far, the likely result will be a consent decree of some sort. Civil Rights Division chief Thomas Perez says that Justice is just there to fix unconstitutional practices.
The public can submit complaints by calling 855-281-3339 or by sending in a complaint form.