State Supreme Court strips Newark police oversight board of subpoena power
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and a group of activists rallied at City Hall Thursday to protest a decision by the state Supreme Court regarding the city’s police oversight board, which weakens the board’s power.
“The police have become a power unto themselves,” says Larry Hamm, with the People’s Organization for Progress. “The best antidote for police brutality is the organized and mobilized people, the masses of people in the streets, fighting for justice. That’s the best antidote to police brutality.”
Newark created an independent Civilian Complaint Review Board in 2016 to investigate police misconduct. The city gave the board the power to subpoena the police department to force officers to testify and provide records. But the police unions went to court over this power and the state Supreme Court ruled to take the subpoena power away.
“We are appealing this to the federal court,” says Baraka.
As he did for the Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd, the mayor joined Hamm to demand change.
“The mayor of this city has a lot of fight in him,” says Hamm.
Photos: Police reform protests across New Jersey
“It’s not enough to be angry. Anger is fleeting. It’s going to be gone before a month from now, five months from now. It’s your ideology, your values, your principals that keep you committed to struggle. Not your anger,” says Baraka.
The Murphy administration, through Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, opposed the city’s case. But an increasing number of towns, including Jersey City, are looking to give oversight boards more power.
“This case will set the precedent for the entire state. If Newark wins, the whole state is going to win,” says Hamm. “Towns and cities all over this state will be able to create police review boards.”
The vote in the state Supreme Court was 6-1 in favor of the police unions. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner dissented.