By Nick Corasaniti and Stephanie Saul
March 27, 2019, 1 comment
“NEWARK — After football practice one summer evening in 2008, a Pop Warner league coach and two of his players were driving through the Clinton Hill section of Newark when a car swerved and blocked their path. Suddenly six police officers emerged from unmarked vehicles and forced them out of their car at gunpoint.
“I felt like this: Don’t kill me, just send me to jail. Please don’t kill me,” one of the boys, Tony Ivey Jr., then 13, would later say in a videotaped interview.
The officers, members of a narcotics squad, searched the car and found nothing but football equipment. The coach had been taking the boys to get hamburgers.
The episode became known as the case of the Pop Warner Three, and it was one of more than 400 misconduct allegations cited two years later when the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey asked the Justice Department to investigate the Newark police.
Newark’s mayor, Cory Booker, had swept into office in 2006 pledging a safer city through zero tolerance on crime. And while killings actually rose in his first year, over the next three they fell to historic lows. Yet grievances against the police were piling up in the city’s black wards, with allegations of racial profiling, unlawful stops and excessive force. The A.C.L.U. and local activists pressed for reforms, complaining about pushback from Mr. Booker, whose administration was promoting the plunging homicide rate.
And when the A.C.L.U. finally went public with its plea to the Justice Department, the mayor went on WNYC radio, telling an interviewer that the petition was “one of the worst ways” to bring about meaningful change. “We don’t need people who are going to frustrate, undermine and mischaracterize our agency,” he added.”
This is a depressing, complicated story. Maybe Corey Booker wasn’t a total fraud, but he was a reckless coward, unleashing an out of control and over powerful police department on his city, and then claiming successes that weren’t base on accurate data. I can also find reasons to defend the young mayor. It is hard to go up against a police union that might make your life miserable, or even kill you. It is not his fault that there were and are too many guns on the street. I’m not sure I could have done a better job, and I certainly didn’t have the guts to even try.