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Federal report on Newark police department may come back to haunt Cory Booker


file Photo by Boyd Loving

Federal report on Newark police department may come back to haunt Cory Booker

JULY 28, 2014    LAST UPDATED: MONDAY, JULY 28, 2014, 1:40 AM

When the U.S. Justice Department issued a damning report last week about civil-rights abuses by the Newark Police Department, Sen. Cory Booker — who served as the high-profile mayor of the city while the abuses were piling up — said the federal involvement was a positive step.

As mayor, Booker recalled, he had worked with the American Civil Liberties Union — which first requested the federal investigation — to improve procedures and “even ended up calling for the federal assistance being announced today.”

What Booker didn’t say was that he had tried to stop the investigation back in 2010, before it ever began.

Or that he said in 2011 that it would be “ridiculous” to hire a federal monitor to oversee the department — a step that the city agreed to take last week.

Booker’s shifting reaction to federal oversight of the 1,000-member police force has had little immediate impact on his rising national reputation, even though similar issues have become major liabilities for other elected officials.

But they could be damaging in the future.

“For somebody who built his career around turning Newark around, a Justice Department finding is a very clear 
statement that, well, you didn’t turn this part around,” said University of Nebraska-Omaha Professor Samuel Walker, who has written a book about police practices and was familiar with the ACLU’s efforts in Newark.

Though best known for his openness with strangers on Twitter to the point of inviting people to shower at his apartment during the post-Superstorm Sandy blackout, Booker has tightly controlled press access since becoming a senator. For example, he generally ¬declines requests for comment from reporters who swarm around senators heading to and from votes and has turned down invitations to appear on network news shows.

And last week, after the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the scathing findings from a three-year investigation of the Newark police, he declined to discuss the police misconduct and instead only issued statements through his Senate office.

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