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June 8th, 2010

Detective Demotion

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Success against homicide in Newark makes detectives’ demotions puzzling, by Joan Whitlow — Friday, June 4th, 2010, The Newark Star-Ledger.

“A statue of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan was unveiled at the Essex County court complex yesterday, a long overdue honor for the associate justice who was born and raised in Newark.”

“In recent weeks, that court complex has been the scene of events that should reassure residents about justice being served in Newark. Prosecutors and detectives stood before the cameras in April to announce arrests, finally, in the three-decade-old murders of five teenage boys. Last month, prosecutors won the first conviction in the 2007 Mount Vernon schoolyard murders.”

“Those are important successes in a jurisdiction where the forensic unit used to be a joke, where the local police and county prosecutors used to blame each other for the failure to make murder cases and where a poor conviction rate led the state Attorney General’s Office to take over the prosecutor’s office in 1991.”

“Many citizens had the understandable perception that the police couldn’t catch the murderers, and if they did, the prosecutors couldn’t put them away.”

“Certainly, the brave testimony of the surviving victim in the Mount Vernon shooting was a major factor in the conviction of the first defendant in that case. Witness Natasha Aeriel will have to keep her courage as the others accused of killing her brother and two of her friends come to trial.”

“There have been enough successes, however, to suggest that more justice is being done these days for homicide victims in Newark and Essex County. The most recent figures, from 2008, showed the homicide conviction rate in Essex County had risen above 80 percent, and the prosecutor’s office says it’s continued to improve.”

“That was what I wanted to write about last week. Then I found out that the Newark Police Department had suddenly reassigned three homicide detectives — who had worked those two previously mentioned big cases — to be patrol car officers …”

The rest of this piece is here. The photograph was taken by Ed Murray/The Star-Ledger.

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