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Newark, NJ — When Cory Booker became mayor of Newark, he inherited a city with decades of deep-seated and systemic issues when it came to police practices and the relationship between the community and the police. According to the New York Times, the Newark police department had “been plagued by low morale, a shortage of working vehicles and modern equipment, and the kind of dysfunction that makes local residents and outside observers cringe.” Politifact said that Biden’s attack “doesn’t tell the full story” about Booker’s record.
Cory took immediate action to make the city safer and rebuild trust between communities and the police. While initially skeptical of the federal intervention called for by the ACLU, Cory embraced the DOJ’s help and worked hand in hand with both the ACLU and DOJ to push forward some of the most progressive policing reforms in the country, winning praise from leadership at the ACLU.
2013: State ACLU Director Praised Newark’s Internal Affairs Data Transparency Policy as “The Most Comprehensive” in the Nation. “The totality really makes this the most comprehensive policy of its kind, as far as we know, in the nation,” said Udi Ofer, executive director of the state chapter of the ACLU. [NJ.com, 7/10/13]
Former New Jersey ACLU Executive Director Udi Ofer weighed in on this back in March on Twitter, praising Cory for embracing reforms and working to implement them while mayor of Newark:
@UdiACLU: Big piece in the NY Times today about Cory Booker’s record over the Newark Police Department. Since I’m quoted, I thought i would share some additional perspective
@UdiACLU: Newark has had a long history of police abuse and civil rights violations by police. It’s what led to the Newark rebellion in 1967. Since the 1960s, Newarkers have been rightfully calling for a fix to policing and for civilian oversight over police.
@UdiACLU: Booker inherited this broken department. Unfortunately, he initially resisted the ACLU’s petition and its call for reforms. This was a mistake and he has admitted to it.
@UdiACLU: At the same time, once the petition was filed with the Justice Department, and before the Department of Justice came out with its findings, Booker embraced reforms, not only in words but in action as well. I have at least three examples of this.
@UdiACLU: First, in July 2013, he issued one of the most comprehensive stop-and-frisk tracking and reporting policies I have ever seen. That was a big deal. And remember, it came at the same time that just a few miles east of Newark Mayor Bloomberg was fighting against stop-&-frisk reform.
@UdiACLU: Second, also in summer of 2013, he issued a policy to protect immigrant Newarkers from deportation by restricting the Newark PD’s cooperation with immigration authorities. This policy was ahead of its times. Today it’s more popular post-Trump, but this came during the Obama years
@UdiACLU: Finally, Booker was the first mayor in Newark history to call for a civilian review board. He did so at his last State of the City address. That was big, since Newarkers had been calling for such a board since the 1960s. Mayor Baraka should be credited with creating such a board
@UdiACLU: So in summary, Booker shouldn’t have resisted the initial ACLU petition. But before the DOJ came out w/ its findings, Booker embraced reforms & began to implement them in Newark. I genuinely believe this experience helps explain why he is championing reforms now on national level
@UdiACLU: And it’s important to recognize that Booker is one of the most vocal national leaders today on the issue of criminal justice reform and ending mass incarceration. That’s important to note in this conversation.