‘Newark’s Original Sin’: The Criminal Justice Education of Cory Booker


The pastor started to move the barricade. “All of a sudden, this young lady in a squad car, lights on, 10:30 in the morning, says, ‘Sir, don’t touch that barricade.’ I told her the barricade could not block my entrance, and she put her hands on her weapon. She had been trained under this zero tolerance. She didn’t look like me, but she was going to shoot a pastor in front of his church.”

Mr. Booker, he said, later called him to apologize.

The lawyer for the Pop Warner Three, Avidan Y. Cover, now a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, said that traffic stop was a case study of the police department’s practice of stopping vehicles, despite insufficient legal justification, in neighborhoods where drug dealing was considered common. The coach and his players eventually settled a lawsuit against the city.

“They were paying their way out of these problems, but not changing police tactics,” Mr. Cover said.

As complaints mounted, the A.C.L.U. began pushing for change.

It called for dashboard cameras in police cars, but complained that the city would commit to placing them in only 12 percent of vehicles. Misconduct complaints seemed to disappear in the police bureaucracy, but when the A.C.L.U. paid to print brochures so citizens would understand the complaint process, “testers” sent to station houses couldn’t find them, although posters describing the process were visible. In a city where the police force still skewed whiter than the population, demands for an independent police monitor were ignored.

In 2009, the A.C.L.U. issued a report card, grading Mr. Booker’s police practices as a “D.”

“Both Mayor Booker and his appointed police director, Garry McCarthy, promised the A.C.L.U.-N.J. that they would reform the city’s police practices. However, we have not seen significant improvement,” the organization said in a statement.

Mr. Booker said his efforts to stem police abuses while also fighting crime required “a massive turnaround effort on every imaginable level.”



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