New CPD supt. leaves NJ as feds start probe

May 10, 2011 4:34:17 AM PDT
The U.S. Justice Department has launched an investigation into New Jersey's Newark Police Department, which has been run for the last five years by Garry McCarthy, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel's pick for Chicago's next top cop.

The Justice Department is looking into allegations of recurring violent, sometimes fatal, police conduct while the Newark department was under McCarthy's command.

It was just one week ago that Emanuel introduced McCarthy and said his choice for superintendent "knows how to run a large police force." On Monday, federal authorities stood with McCarthy to announce they were investigating whether his police used too much force in stopping, searching and arresting people in Newark.

As Chicago's incoming police superintendent McCarthy boxes up his belongings in Newark, he will be leaving behind a department under close scrutiny by federal investigators looking at allegations of police misconduct.

"There has been evidence of some level that there have been instances in which the civil rights of people in Newark may have been violated," said Paul J. Fishman, U.S. Attorney-New Jersey.

In a wide-ranging interview with the I-Team last week, McCarthy talked about how he handles brutality complaints. Click here to watch the entire interview

"Many times I've seen police leadership being very defensive about an incident," said McCarthy.

It was 96 pages of complaints to the Justice Department last fall by the American Civil Liberties Union that prompted Monday's action.

The ACLU cites 261 citizen complaints about serious misconduct, of which they claimed the Newark police substantiated one; 177 excessive force claims, including seven deaths "at the hands of the Newark police"; a fractured face and jaw of an arrestee was described along with a case where police beat and urinated on a juvenile.

"Everybody has a cell phone camera these days and officers really have to respect that," said McCarthy.

Mayor-elect Emanuel issued a written statement Monday afternoon praising McCarthy's "aggressive and successful reforms" in Newark, stating it was McCarthy who "asked the civil rights division of the Justice Department to work with" the Newark police.

"Are there room for mistakes in police work?" ABC7's Chuck Goudie asked McCarthy.

"I'm not going to say there is room for it, but what I am going to say it is an eventuality," he responded. "We get into critical situations where we have to make split second decisions. Sometimes they are tragic split-second decisions...Unless it's an exceptional circumstance, we have to maintain the middle road because cops are entitled to the same constitutional protections as John Q citizen and I'm not willing to throw cops under the bus just because it may be political issue."

Newark's mayor says some of the ACLU's allegations are both frivolous and false. Justice officials say there were other complaints that weighed into the decision to investigate. McCarthy told the I-Team that many complaints come from the arrest procedure. He says in Newark he sought out the best arrest and compliance program in the country found it in Los Angeles and sent four of his instructors there to learn the procedure.

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