Newark cops to temporarily stop arresting people for minor warrants
Officers may still stop people who have an outstanding warrant — worth $500 or less — but they will only document the encounter, officials said
By Rebecca Panico
NEWARK, N.J. — Newark cops will temporarily stop arresting people for non-indictable warrants worth $500 or less — excluding those for domestic violence — as the nation begins to reevaluate cops’ interactions with the public.
The new policy comes on the heels of a police officer in Minnesota fatally shooting Daunte Wright earlier this month when he was pulled over. Police there have said Wright was initially stopped because his vehicle registration was expired and then learned he had an outstanding warrant for a gross misdemeanor weapons charge.
Police in Newark may still continue to stop people with an outstanding traffic or bench warrant, even if it’s $500 or less, but cops will only document the encounter. An officer will advise the person of the warrant and what they need to do to resolve it, then let them go on their way, said Newark Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara.
“This will allow the officers to remain on the streets, in the neighborhoods where their presence is needed,” O’Hara said in a statement. “The last thing people need right now is to lose time from their jobs and families for these minor offenses.”
Mayor Ras Baraka said the decision was also made due to financial setbacks people are facing during the coronavirus pandemic. The aim, the mayor said, is to “lessen their burdens, not make them worse.”
“We’re not excusing those outstanding warrants; we’re simply extending the appropriate courtesy called for during this pandemic,” Baraka said. “And I believe it is especially critical that we reduce the possibility of people having negative encounters with police over such minor offenses.”
Non-indictable offenses in New Jersey are handled by municipal court judges and are considered misdemeanors. They include traffic and parking offenses or disorderly persons charges like simple assault.
O’Hara said the policy will stay in place until further notice. Newark police will still complete a report, including the outstanding warrant number, criminal charge, date issued, municipality of the warrant, bail amount and updated address and contact number of the wanted person.
The reports will be forwarded to the Newark municipal court. The release did not state what would happen if the person has a warrant from outside of Newark.
The state Attorney General’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Newark’s new policy.
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