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In True 'Stop and Frisk' Fashion, New Jersey Police Admit to Targeting Minority Neighborhoods in What They Call 'Hunting at the Border'

Illustration for article titled In True Stop and Frisk Fashion, New Jersey Police Admit to Targeting Minority Neighborhoods in What They Call Hunting at the Border
Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP (Getty Images)

In today’s “Water is Wet” news we find, once again, that when police are sent to target civilians at random, black and Latino people will overwhelmingly represent the victimized. The nation saw a prime example of this in the form of New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy, which was first overseen by then-mayor and now U.S. presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg and targeted black and Latino people disproportionately by anywhere from 70 to 90 percent during its existence.

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Well, now we’re seeing the same type of hunting expedition done again; this time, in New Jersey.

According to an investigation by NBC New York’s I-Team, officers in the North Brunswick Police Department targeted black and Latino neighborhoods in order to fulfill ticket quotas and rack up overtime pay. This was done in accordance with an unofficial policy that was widely understood in the department, police say. And just in case you thought I was being hyperbolic in my choice of the words “hunting expedition,” this act of racial profiling was literally termed “hunting at the border” as the practice was carried out at the border between North and New Brunswick and other roads that minorities are known to travel heavily.

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Officer Mike Campbell spoke with the I-team about this infuriatingly racist ass shit the practice which went on for almost a decade, according to NBC News.

“For every 40 tickets written, that would be a minimum of 4 hours overtime, even if you ended up going to court for five minutes,” said Campbell, adding that there was no official policy, only an unwritten understanding in the department.

Another officer, who asked the I-Team to conceal his identity, said, “Guys were going out—they were competing for how many tickets each guy could get.”

A different cop, also unidentified, said in reference to the practice’s nefarious moniker, “They’re saying they’re going out hunting. You go to traffic court and you see the impact. Ninety percent of the people you see there are blacks and Latinos.”

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If the recollections of actual officers admitting to these egregious acts weren’t enough to piss you all the way off, 24-year-old Najaer Brown, one of several repeated victims of the unofficial policy who spoke to reporters, talked about how his life has been derailed by it after he was issued a ticket over a seat belt, initially, before it escalated over missing court dates.

“I had got a warrant that I didn’t know about,” he said. “Just came back from school. Got pulled over, they locked me up.”

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His license was revoked shortly after.

“I have a carhad a car. Can’t use it because I don’t have a license,” Brown said adding that his grandmother now has to drive him everywhere.

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Officer Campbell said he became so disturbed by what he was seeing in his department that he began filing freedom of information requests. He says that at an executive session of the council in the fall of 2009 there was a discussion on “why ticket writing is so down.”

“That’s when you started hearing more of writing summonses,” Campbell said.

A fellow officer added, “In order for guys to get to that quota faster, they would go in and write ‘license plate light,’ “license plate bracket,’ ‘headlight out,’ ‘something hanging from the mirror.’”

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To make matters worse (because that’s surprisingly possible), some people who were targeted say they received multiple tickets after a single stop. From NBC New York:

Several people at traffic court told the I-Team they received several tickets during one stop and all stated they were pulled over in neighborhoods that the cops we spoke to identified as a prime “hunting” locations.

The claims of the North Brunswick officers echo those made by members of the NYPD 12: 12 New York City officers who sued the Department in 2016 over alleged racial quotas. One Detective told the I-Team: “At the end of the month, you go hunting for blacks and hispanics.” The NYPD denies quotas ever existed.

Campbell said the reward incentive program in North Brunswick began in earnest in 2010 and continued until 2018 when news broke of a similar reward scandal involving the Palisades Parkway Police.

“The repercussions are still being felt,” he said. “Some people still have warrants. Some are still paying summonses, some have experienced suspensions or they lost their job.” He added he believes minority neighborhoods are still unfairly targeted by enforcement.

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The real questions now are: Will there be any repercussions for any officers involved in the scheme? Will people victimized and still affected by it be relieved of their burdens?

In a phone interview with the I-Team, Mayor Francis Womack III, said, “Based on what you’re reporting, I have authorized an independent investigation. If summonses were targeted at any particular community, that will be determined through a review. We will do whatever it takes to get to the truth.”

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In a statement released Thursday, NBPD (in full, side-eye worthy caucasity mode) said the I-Team’s report “fails to tell the story of well-rounded officers, well balanced North Brunswick police department.”

The department officials pointed to allegations of racial profiling that had been investigated in October by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office who (allegedly) discovered no criminal activity. It also cited a statement from Mayor Womack in response to the investigation.

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“To say that in the United States driver profiling, targeting or ticket quotas in police departments never happened or doesn’t happen is disingenuous and would insult one’s intelligence,” Womack said. “When anyone suggests that it is happening in North Brunswick, the allegations are taken seriously.”

I mean, your own officers are telling a different story, but I’m sure they have some mysterious incentive to lie. *eye-roll*

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Kesi Foster, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, told NBC News that the NBPD, “like too many police departments across the country, is threatening the safety of black and other communities of color by targeting them to fill quotas. Reducing these communities down to numbers to fill a quota is inhumane and unacceptable,” said Foster. “We must remember that with every abusive police interaction, the consequences too often include humiliation, fear and brutality.”

 

 

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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DISCUSSION

In a statement released Thursday, NBPD (in full, side-eye worthy caucacity mode) said the I-Team’s report “fails to tell the story of well-rounded officers, well balanced North Brunswick police department.”

Yeah, John Wayne Gacy loved his mother and paid his taxes. Does that make him a public-spirited citizen?