NEWARK - Newark's police department will undergo independent monitoring after a federal investigation found what it calls "a pattern of unconstitutional policing," the Justice Department announced.

The probe found problems with the department's stop and arrest policies, its handling of complaints from residents and its officers' use of excessive force. It also found the department violated the First Amendment rights of residents who lawfully objected to police actions.

The report also found a pattern of officers stealing property and drugs.

The results of the three-year investigation, which began after years of accusations from residents, were announced Tuesday.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman says the DOJ found 75 percent of pedestrian stops to be unconstitutional, and included excessive force that was sometimes under-reported. "We also found an organization that is challenged in fundamental ways."

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka admits the department is in for changes. "One could look at this, at 22 days in as the mayor, that the roof is caving in," he says. "But I look at it as an opportunity to build a new roof."

The city of Newark cooperated with the investigation and has agreed to court-enforced monitoring. The DOJ says 14 other cities have done so in recent years, including Detroit, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Seattle.

The federal appointee will oversee the department and will be announced in mid-September.  
 

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