Federal authorities launched a "pattern-or-practice" civil rights investigation into the Trenton Police Department, NJ.com reports. It will review “serious and credible” complaints that officers have conducted excessive force or unlawful stops and searches. Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke made the announcement Tuesday with New Jersey U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger. Clarke said the probe comes after officials reviewed a host of information, from media reports to court records to body-worn camera footage and statistical data about police interactions. They found problematic examples of force used against people suspected of minor traffic offenses, onlookers who were recording or questioning police activity, and confrontations that were unnecessarily escalated, including when dealing with people in mental health crisis. They also found evidence of police routinely stopping people on foot or in vehicles and conducting warrantless searches that violate the Constitution.
Sellinger said he attended a town hall meeting at a Trenton church in September and, “one community member after another voiced concerns about how officers of the Trenton Police Department treat the people of Trenton.” They had stories of stops and searches done, “for no good reason” and expressed a that lack of trust in police can create fear, he said. One person wrote a note to authorities that said: “We[’re] scared of the law because they don’t like us.” Trenton Councilwoman Jennifer Williams posted that the meeting was "moving" and "informative." The local and state PBA union said, “We understand and respect the purpose of the Department of Justice’s investigation. However, we hope that this inquiry will also shed light on the pressing need for additional resources and support for our officers. It is essential that we work together to ensure the safety and well-being of our community and its dedicated public servants."