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Newark Mayor Cory Booker says he’s "relieved and enthusiastic" about working with the U.S. Department of Justice as it probes allegations made by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey against the city police department.
That wasn’t always the case.
Nine months ago, Booker and Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy criticized an ACLU petition to the Justice Department calling for outside intervention to deal with more than 400 allegations of excessive force, brutality and other claims against Newark police.
Booker now says that what he was really resistant to in September 2010 was that "the ACLU didn’t call for an investigation, they called for an immediate federal monitor," according to his May 10 interview with Jami Floyd on the Brian Lehrer radio show at WNYC-FM.
WNYC’s Floyd called Booker on his apparent change of opinion as she segued from a discussion about the city’s weekend peace summit into the Department of Justice petition:
"You know I’ve got to ask, the DOJ yesterday announcing its investigation into the Newark Police Department back in September when the NJCLU Civil Liberties Union requested intervention, I think it’s fair to say you and your police chief were resistant to that idea, and yesterday you sounded like you thought it it was a good thing," Floyd said to Booker.
Booker responded: "Well, actually, what we were specifically resistant to is the ACLU didn’t call for an investigation, they called for an immediate federal monitor, which was almost to the point of being ridiculous, so we immediately reached out to the DOJ and asked them to help us to get this cloud off of our police department, but more importantly, when I started talking to Tom Perez’s team we realized very quickly that the DOJ had worked with many police departments around the country helping them to improve their practices." Perez is the assistant attorney general for Civil Rights.
Really? PolitiFact New Jersey has found legal documents that say otherwise.
The ACLU on Sept. 9, 2010, filed a petition with the Justice Department. The document’s first sentence reads "The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey of New Jersey ("ACLU-NJ" or "Petitioner") respectfully requests that the Special Litigation Section, acting pursuant to its authority under 42 U.S.C. § 14141, commence an investigation into the Newark, New Jersey Police Department ("NPD")."
After seven paragraphs summarizing alleged abuses by the Newark Police Department, the petition then states "On behalf of the people who live in, work in, and visit the City of Newark, New Jersey, we implore the Civil Rights Division to investigate the NPD."
Use of a federal monitor is mentioned as an option in addition to an investigation, in the final pages of the petition:
"For all of the foregoing reasons, the Petitioners respectfully ask the United States Department of Justice, Special Litigation Section, to forthwith commence an investigation into the Newark, New Jersey Police Department. Thereafter, DOJ should impose remedial steps upon the NPD, including but not limited to: (a) alterations to the citizen complaints and internal affairs processes; (b) an enhanced risk management system; (c) enhanced training; (d) alterations to the disciplinary process; and (e) an independent monitor to oversee compliance."
PolitiFact New Jersey asked the ACLU about Booker’s comments on the radio broadcast.
"It’s simply not true," said Alexander Shalom, the ACLU’s policy counsel. "The petition is pretty clear in its language. The first page of the petition requests the Special Litigation Section commence an investigation into the police department."
So what does Booker have to say about this? He declined to comment to PolitiFact New Jersey, according to spokeswoman Anne Torres.
To review: The mayor tried to downplay the controversy by saying the ACLU called for a federal monitor of the Newark Police Department instead of requesting an investigation. Yet the first sentence of the ACLU’s petition to the Department of Justice requests an investigation.
We rate Booker's statement False.
To comment on this ruling, go to NJ.com.
The Brian Lehrer Show: Peace In Newark radio broadcast, May 10, 2011
Phone and e-mail queries to Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s press office, May 13 and 16, 2011
Phone interview with Katie S. Wang, ACLU communications director, May 13, 2011
Phone interview with Alexander Shalom, ACLU policy counsel, May 13, 2011
ACLU-NJ website "ACLU-NJ Welcomes Justice Department’s Decision to Investigate Newark Police Department," accessed May 13, 2011
ACLU-NJ website "Petition to U.S. Department of Justice to Investigate the Newark Police Department," accessed May 13, 2011
ACLU-NJ website, "ACLU Cover Letter to U.S. Department of Justice requesting federal intervention," accessed May 13, 2011
ACLU-NJ website, "ACLU Supplemental Petition on Investigation of the Newark Police Department," accessed May 13, 2011
The Star-Ledger, "ACLU accuses Newark police of false arrests, excessive force," Sept. 8, 2010
The Star-Ledger, "Federal investigation of Newark Police Department launched; Mayor Booker welcomes probe," May 10, 2011
The Star-Ledger, "ACLU alleges Newark police misconduct allegations more widespread than previously reported," Oct. 21, 2010
The Star-Ledger, "City officials support federal monitor of Newark Police Department," Sept. 10, 2010
The Star-Ledger, "Police discipline is key to fighting crime," Sept. 20, 2010
The Star-Ledger, "Federal Department Of Justice announces investigation into Newark Police Department," May 9, 2011
The Star-Ledger, "Justice Department investigates ACLU’s call for federal oversight of Newark police," Jan. 20, 2011
The Star-Ledger, "Newark police director defends department, personal record amid ACLU accusations," Sept. 16, 2010
Local Talk Newark, "'No Worries,' Say Booker, McCarthy In Fed Probe On Police," May 12-18, 2011
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