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MSNBC TV
updated 7/12/2013 7:46:32 PM ET 2013-07-12T23:46:32

Newark, NJ, overhauls its stop-and-frisk program to boost transparency.

Police in Newark, New Jersey, are changing the way they do business. On Tuesday, the city council approved an order to overhaul their stop-and-frisk program in order to boost transparency and ensure the practice is not abused. “When you look at the scope and breadth of the policy, I dare to say it’s the most comprehensive of its kind in the nation,” Udi Ofer, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Jersey, told MSNBC on Thursday.

Newark leads the state in implementing what they call the “Police Transparency Policy.” The program will demand police officers record the race and gender of every person they stop.

Newark’s police will also be required to report an individual’s English proficiency and if translation services were provided. Ofer emphasizes the significance of this practice: “This policy will require the Newark police department to track and report the impact of stop-and-frisk in immigrant communities.” To provide accountability,  Newark residents will be able to access this information and assess trends for themselves.

Whether or not an individual is arrested, officers must report their reasons for the stop, along with a description of the force, if any, that was used. All of the data collected will then be compiled and released to the public on a monthly basis on Newark’s police website. But Jonathan C. Moore, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in Floyd v. New York City, the city’s major stop-and-frisk case said: “This bill only deals with documenting the stop.  Although important, it is critical that any police department adequately supervise, monitor and audit officers in their stop and frisk activity to make sure they are engaged in conduct that complies with the Constitution.”

Not all are hailing Newark’s policy. “A far better way to improve relationships between communities (particularly communities of color) and the police would be to implement community-based policing models where officers focus on developing collaborative relationships with community members to address local problems,” said Rosa Squillacote, policy advocate for the New York City community organization Urban Justice, in an email to MSNBC.

Across the river in New York City, aggrieved citizens and officials are embroiled in a battle with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly about the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy. According to the NYCLU, African-Americans and Latinos accounted for about 41% of stops but only make up 4.7 % of the city’s population.

“In our view, as New York City advocates of police reform, the only effective and meaningful way to reform the stop-and-frisk practice is to abolish it,” said Squillacote.

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