TRENTON, N.J. – The Justice Department has launched a civil pattern or practice investigation into the City of Trenton and the Trenton Police Department (TPD), according to U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger for the District of New Jersey and Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Civil Rights Division. The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether there are systemic violations of the Constitution and federal law by the TPD, with a specific focus on their use of force, as well as stops, searches, and arrests.
The investigation will encompass a comprehensive review of TPD policies, training, and supervision, in addition to examining complaint intake, internal investigation protocols, complaint reviews, complaint adjudications, and disciplinary decisions. U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger emphasized the importance of effective and constitutional policing in Trenton and throughout New Jersey. He stated, “Unfortunately, we have reviewed numerous reports that Trenton police officers may have used force inappropriately and conducted stops, searches, and arrests with no good reason, in violation of individuals’ constitutional rights.”
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the need for the public to have trust and confidence in law enforcement. She stated, “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.” She assured the public that the Justice Department would conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations, and if violations are substantiated, appropriate action would be taken to remedy them.
Prior to the announcement, officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division informed Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora, Director Steve Wilson of TPD, and Director Wes Bridges of the Trenton Law Department about the investigation. All parties have pledged their cooperation.
As part of the investigation, the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney’s Office will reach out to community groups and members of the public to gather information about their experiences with the TPD. This outreach aims to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the situation.
The investigation will be conducted jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in accordance with the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. This act prohibits state and local governments, through their law enforcement officers, from engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives people of their constitutional rights. If the Justice Department finds reasonable cause to believe that such violations have occurred, they are authorized to bring a lawsuit seeking court-ordered changes to remedy the violations.
The department’s investigation will assess the law enforcement practices under the Fourth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Individuals with relevant information are encouraged to contact the Justice Department to contribute to the investigation. The department can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 973-645-2801. Additionally, civil rights violations can be reported through the reporting portal of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Mayor Reed Gusciora expressed his support for the investigation and his commitment to holding any members of law enforcement accountable if they violate the public trust or act contrary to state and federal laws. He acknowledged the challenges faced by police officers but emphasized the critical importance of the community’s trust in the police force.
In conclusion, the civil pattern or practice investigation into the City of Trenton and the Trenton Police Department represents a significant step towards ensuring effective and constitutional policing. The thorough and impartial investigation, conducted jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, aims to address any violations of individuals’ constitutional rights and rebuild trust between law enforcement and the community.