In response to growing Black Lives Matter protests, Baraka puts forth edict against white nationalism and racism. Can it stop those issues within the Newark PD?
In predominantly Black and Latino Newark, New Jersey, the city’s mayor, Ras Baraka plans to ask its city council to pass an ordinance condemning hate crimes and racism. Included in the decree is a stance against police brutality and a declaration of white supremacy groups as terrorists.
“For this country to heal, we must begin to legally challenge the insidious and dehumanizing tenets of white supremacy, once and for all,” said Mayor Baraka.
Some measures in the ordinance will require city employees to report racist and discriminatory actions by their colleagues. As well, the decree plans to create and regularly update a national database on hate groups.
In 2018, an FBI report indicated that most reported incidents of hate in New Jersey were in predominantly white towns. In 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a map of 21 hate groups in New Jersey. All but one are white supremacist groups ranging from skin heads to white nationalists. For Mayor Baraka, banning hate groups is serious business.
“This ordinance is no publicity stunt . . . these groups are a serious threat right here in New Jersey,” Mayor Baraka added.
Newark Corporation Counsel Kenyatta Stewart said, “We will welcome challenges to the ordinance. You can’t enjoy free speech when you can’t breathe, and our first human right is to be able to live.
To serve and protect
Police recruit graduation for City of Newark, January 3, 2019. Photo credit: City of Newark Press Office.
Although white towns and cities lead in reports of racist attacks, the Newark Police department has a history of being sued for police brutality linked to racial mistreatment. So much so, the ACLU stepped in to investigate. In 2008, 106 internal affairs complaints “were filed alleging excessive force, improper arrest, improper entry, improper search or differential treatment,” stated the organization’s petition for the Department of Justice to investigate the Newark Police Department. In 2009, the cases increased to 155 complaints.
The ACLU reported that in 2008, the city had to pay out $1,696,503 stemming from nine lawsuits against Newark police officers named for police misconduct and discrimination. In 2010, the ACLU said that 27 cases were pending, including seven from NPD employees. The DOJ launched an investigation in 2011. Under the Obama Administration, the city pledged a commitment to change, but few policies addressing systemic issues have been implemented.
On the other hand, the proposed ordinance does seek to close the 1st Precinct of the Newark Police Division on 17th Avenue by December 31, 2021. The site where the 1967 civil unrest ignited, plans for the building is to turn it into a museum detailing the history of the Newark Police Department.
“There is a negative history in that building,” Mayor Baraka said. “We are going to set it on a course of positivity.”
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