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11.12.2015 | Sonderheft 1/2016

Journal of Urban Health 1/2016

Politics, Police Accountability, and Public Health: Civilian Review in Newark, New Jersey

Journal of Urban Health > Sonderheft 1/2016
Alecia McGregor


Police brutality, a longstanding civil rights issue, has returned to the forefront of American public debate. A growing body of public health research shows that excessive use of force by police and racial profiling have adverse effects on health for African Americans and other marginalized groups. Yet, interventions to monitor unlawful policing have been met with fierce opposition at the federal, state, and local levels. On April 30, 2015, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey signed an executive order establishing a Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) to monitor the Newark Police Department (NPD). Using a mixed-methods approach, this study examined how advocates and government actors accomplished this recent policy change in the face of police opposition and after a 50-year history of unsuccessful attempts in Newark. Drawing on official public documents, news media, and interviews conducted in April and May 2015, I propose that: (1) a Department of Justice investigation of the NPD, (2) the activist background of the Mayor and his relationships with community organizations, and (3) the momentum provided by the national Black Lives Matter movement were pivotal in overcoming political obstacles to reform. Examining the history of CCRB adoption in Newark suggests when and where advocates may intervene to promote policing reforms in other US cities.

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