The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday launched a formal civil rights investigation into possible “systemic violations committed by a police department in central New Jersey and the city it is charged with protecting and serving.
The civil pattern or practice investigation into the City of Trenton, New Jersey, and the Trenton Police Department was announced by Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger for the District of New Jersey and “will seek to determine whether there are systemic violations of the Constitution and federal law by” the police department, according to a DOJ press release.
“The public must have trust and confidence that police officers will treat them fairly and with respect,” Clarke said in a statement. “The Justice Department is opening an investigation into the Trenton Police Department after an extensive review of publicly available information and other information provided to us suggesting that officers used force, stopped motorists and pedestrians and conducted searches of homes and cars in violation of the Constitution and federal law. Our experience has shown that policing practices that run afoul of the law and our Constitution can lead to distrust between police officers and the community. The Justice Department will conduct a full and fair investigation into these allegations, and if we substantiate those violations, the department will take appropriate action to remedy them.”
From the DOJ:
The investigation will seek to determine whether there are systemic violations of the Constitution and federal law by TPD. The investigation will focus on TPD’s use of force and its stops, searches and arrests. The investigation will include a comprehensive review of TPD policies, training and supervision, in addition to complaint intake, internal investigation protocols, complaint reviews, complaint adjudications and disciplinary decisions.
While there was no mention of race in the DOJ’s announcement, Trenton is a city where most of its residents are Black. According to U.S. Census data, more than 49% of the city’s nearly 90,000 residents are Black or African American.
The DOJ didn’t cite any specific examples of alleged violations by cops, but an incident in Trenton from just last year may have caught its attention.
Just after midnight on February 12, 29-year-old Jajuan R. Henderson – who is Black – was getting iced tea from a car parked right outside his home in Trenton, according to a civil lawsuit filed in Mercer County.
The suit alleged that Henderson was sitting in the car with the beverage when a group of plainclothes police officers, who he had no reason to think were police officers, approached the vehicle and began shouting at Henderson, who then attempted to use his phone to call for help. The altercation ended in one officer smashing the driver’s side window and Henderson being shot four times, which resulted in him being paralyzed from the chest down.
Henderson sued the four officers on the scene, the city of Trenton and the director of Trenton police, Steve E. Wilson, who the DOJ said has “pledged to cooperate with the investigation.”
The investigation into Trenton and its police department comes about a week after the DOJ referred an instance of police brutality in Colorado to its Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.
In that case, Colorado Springs police officers beat and violently arrested then-29-year-old Dalvin Gadson because the Black, unhoused U.S. military veteran refused to comply with police orders to leave his vehicle—which he was living out of at the time.
You can’t reform this, but Kristen Clarke is trying.
The post DOJ Investigating Possible ‘Systemic’ Civil Rights Violations By NJ Cops And Mostly Black City They Serve appeared first on NewsOne.