Justice For All: Groundbreaking Newark program addresses racism and police brutality
The world watched as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned George Floyd to the ground. His knee was on his neck for 9 minutes and 26 seconds, and all of it was caught on camera.
The call for justice came soon after.
One year later, what has or hasn’t changed? Has justice arrived?
These are the questions, News 12 New Jersey asked people living in the Garden State.
A Jersey City woman said she believes there’s a greater awareness about institutional racism in the country. Another man said people are angrier now.
Officials in Newark answered the question by showing us their groundbreaking program to tackle racism and police brutality.
It’s called the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery. It was opened in June 2020, shortly after George Floyd was killed.
“This new office will employ social workers and a host of other folks who are better trained than us to try to interrupt cycles of violence to try and provide services to victims,” said Newark Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara.
EXPANDED COVERAGE: Justice for All
Officials said social workers and volunteers from the community will go into the streets offering help.
“The mission and vision for the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery is to ultimately be a clearinghouse for the community,” said program director Lakeesha Eure.
Eure calls it a national model involving multiple agencies.
They’re also building an anti-racism and hate crime unit. In addition, city workers are now asked to report any civil rights violations by their peers.
Two community service officers are also assigned to each precinct.
The city divested money from the police force to fund the program - $12 million from the public safety budget was pulled.
“The public safety budget is probably the biggest budget in every city, so we can reallocate and shift some of that so that we can do some great work too,” said Eure.
However, Newark Water Coalition co-founder Anthony Diaz said it's not enough.
“I think they're baby steps also when you talk about the administration, who we have. We have a progressive Black mayor. We have a diverse, we have a diverse City Council, and we’re coming up with this? To me, it’s crumbs,” said Diaz.
Eure said it’s not 100% but that they’re moving in the right direction.
The headquarters from the program will be in the 1st Precinct, the same location that served as the epicenter of the 1967 Rebellion. City officials say it's about turning a negative place into a place of healing.
Reporting and text by Brittany Miller. Follow her on Twitter at @Brittm_tv.