Mayor Bowser Remains Silent on Civil Rights Abuses

(EAST ORANGE) – Democratic candidate for Mayor Lester Taylor and Fifth Ward Councilwoman Alicia Holman today criticized Mayor Robert L. Bowser for his silence as the civil rights of East Orange residents are being abused and called for an investigation into police department practices in light of a report this morning that the East Orange police chief has ramped up an illegal quota system in recent months, demanding unnecessary summonses, arrests and pedestrian and motorist stops.

According to the Star-Ledger, “Seven members of the East Orange Police Department said during in-person interviews that in the past two years, and most aggressively in recent months, the chief has instituted a quota system, demanding more summonses, arrests, pedestrian and motorist stops with little justification. The Star-Ledger also received 30 additional calls from officers identifying themselves as East Orange police who did not want their names published. They say the threat of disciplinary action to those who don’t fall in line has created a culture of tension and frustrated compliance.” 

“The allegations that the East Orange police chief is demanding quotas and threatening discipline against officers who do not comply are without question shameful and disturbing, but nonetheless unsurprising to our residents who have long been unhappy with what they see as constant harassment. It is also no secret that our officers are demoralized,” said Taylor, a successful attorney who has built a statewide reputation for solving many of the challenges faced by our cities and schools. “Let it be clear that quotas are against the law in New Jersey, have zero legal justification and have no place in our communities whatsoever. There needs to be an immediate investigation into these excessive practices to determine the extent to which these directives have overstepped the bounds of the law and are trampling on the Constitutional rights of our residents. This is the exact kind of policy that does much more harm than good. Why is an East Orange police officer breaking up a fight in Newark when they could be responding to one of the hundreds of violent crimes that occur in our city each year? Could a homicide or robbery have been prevented if our officers were not pushed to write-up every single parent who double-parks to pick up his or her child from school?”

Councilwoman Alicia Holman, Chairwoman of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, also spoke out against the alleged quota policy.

“As I have always strongly maintained, I am all for policing our community, but I will always be against harassing our community,” said Councilwoman Holman. “Our officers also do not want these policies because they know that they are wrong and that they are ineffective at reducing real crime and only create a false sense of security. Our residents are being treated as suspects everywhere they go, in a clear violation of their civil rights. The constant pressure to find any excuse, no matter how small, to make an arrest or stop a person for leaving their home or driving a few blocks, stretches the concept of probable cause beyond recognition. If there are no quotas, why do the men and woman of the EOPD get emails and text massages during their shifts to increase their numbers? If there are no quotas, why are these men and women punished for not reaching these numbers?”

Lester Taylor added that the silence from the mayor on these civil rights violations speaks to an absence of leadership.

“We must not blame our officers for the failures of leadership,” continued Taylor. “The silence, once again from the mayor, as the civil rights of our residents are being violated, is deafening. Whether it is on the critical issue of the safety of our drinking water or illegal police quotas, the administration has chosen to stay silent and leave a vacuum of leadership rather than address the important concerns of our residents. Our residents have a right to know what the mayor knows and whether he supports and is complicit in these harmful policies. Meanwhile, our men and women in uniform are dedicated to protecting our residents and making our community safer. It is also why many of them are now speaking out. They understand that there is a difference between aggressively pursuing criminals and policies that may pad statistics and fill city coffers with revenue from tickets, but do little to actually reduce crime. These policies only serve to breed distrust and create unnecessary friction between law enforcement and our residents. This is one of the many reasons why it is time for a change. Our city needs new leadership that works to build relationships between law enforcement and our community rather than tears these relationships apart in an overzealous attempt to pad statistics at any cost.”

“This is failed leadership from Chief Robinson and Mayor Bowser," added Councilwoman Holman. "There seems to be a greater concern for making the police department seem ‘proactive’ than for protecting our residents and making our neighborhoods safer. I have been fighting and will continue to fight for community policing policies that are proven to reduce crime. We have real problems with drugs and gang violence that harassing our residents for their records and hoping to find a warrant are not going to solve. Our police, who are trained in fighting real crime, should be focusing on learning the neighborhoods they patrol and building dialogues with our residents rather than writing an arbitrary number of tickets. We must work together to improve community relations with law enforcement that puts the safety and security of our residents first.”

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