Biden calls Newark PD corrupt under Booker; city residents say it’s improving

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NEWARK -

Newark community activists are coming out to defend the city’s police department after former Vice President Joe Biden called the department corrupt during a Democratic presidential debate.

Biden criticized candidate Sen. Cory Booker, the former mayor of Newark, after Booker brought up Biden’s role in writing a 1994 crime bill linked to mass incarceration.

“There was nothing done to deal with a police department that was corrupt,” Biden said.

Booker fired back, “If you want to compare records, and frankly, I’m shocked that you do, I am happy to do that.”

But some Newark community activists say that the Newark Police Department has been improving over time.

“I’ve seen police plant drugs on individuals. I’ve seen police do things, you know, just in my years growing up in the city,” says Malik Livermore.

But Livermore says that those days appear to be over, thanks in large part to ongoing federal monitoring of the police department.

RELATED: Newark police officers hit the streets looking for new recruits 

“You see these young police now, there's so many new young police and they have a different perspective,” he says.

A consent decree allowing federal monitoring was signed after a Department of Justice investigation found years of policing practices that eroded the community trust, violated people's rights and retaliated against those who complained. The investigation lasted from 2010 to 2014 while Booker was mayor. The settlement starting the monitoring was reached in 2016 under current Mayor Ras Baraka.

“In my years of living in the city of Newark, I've never seen law enforcement and the community work hand in hand the way they're working now…I believe the consent decree is the reason. It is the reason for it,” says Livermore.

Newark police declined to comment for this story. Livermore and members of the Newark Community Street Team say changes brought about by the decree make police more willing to share information with them. They say the police are their partners in Baraka's community-based anti-violence strategy.

Police have said that overall crime in Newark was down 15 percent last year. Officials have said the community street team deserves some of the credit.

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