From Rebellion to Review Board: Fighting for Police Accountability in Newark
From Rebellion to Review Board: Fighting for Police Accountability in Newark is on display now through April 16 in the Fourth Floor Gallery of John Cotton Dana Library. The exhibition, a series of 14 panels, was created by graduate and undergraduate students in the Department of American Studies under the direction of professor Mary Rizzo.
The panels describe the 50-year fight waged by citizens and community groups to address police misconduct through the creation of a civilian complaint review board. In 2016, the City Council established such a board to oversee police actions.
Part of larger issues regarding civil rights and political power, police misconduct became a focal point in Newark during the 1967 Rebellion and the 1974 Puerto Rican Riots. Both African Americans and Puerto Ricans were left with feelings of political disenfranchisement. Within a few years, both groups decided that collaborating would bring about change. Subsequent events did not, unfortunately, support this view.
The War on Drugs in the 1980s led to further incidents of police misconduct. Residents in some neighborhoods felt as though they were under constant police surveillance and their everyday activities curtailed. To quote longtime activist Amiri Baraka, “how can the police police the police?”
In the 1990s and 2000s, activists renewed their efforts to have a civilian review board created by the City Council. They called on the federal government to investigate two apparently groundless police shootings. The Department of Justice’s report, issued in 2011, recommended a number of reforms including a civilian complaint review board. With the creation of the board in 2016, citizens and the police share the hope that this will be the first step to an improved and positive relationship.
A companion exhibition, AccióLatina: Protesta y Transformación Socio-cultural en Nueva Jersey, examines the forgotten Latino riots that took place in Dover, Elizabeth, and Camden in the 1960s and 1970s. The text is in Spanish.
The exhibition was developed with funding from the Office of the Chancellor and the American Studies Program at Rutgers University–Newark, as well as the Newark Public Library.