Newark, NJ – Newark police have been ordered to let most suspects walk free it they have warrants with under $500 bail.
Under a new policy implemented on April 25, Newark police will no longer be allowed to arrest suspects who have outstanding, non-indictable warrants under $500, with the exception of those pertaining to domestic violence incidents, according to a City of Newark press release.
Officers will still be allowed to stop people who have outstanding bench or traffic warrants under the $500 threshold, but only to make sure they are aware they have a warrant and to let them know how to resolve it, Newark Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara said in the release.
Once they’ve been made aware, they will be allowed to walk away.
“The last thing people need right now is to lose time from their jobs and families for these minor offenses,” O’Hara opined.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said the aim of the new policy is to make it easier on alleged offenders.
The city wants to “lessen [offenders’] burdens, not make them worse,” especially during the pandemic, Baraka said.
“We’re not excusing those outstanding warrants; we’re simply extending the appropriate courtesy called for during this pandemic,” he wrote. “I believe it is especially critical that we reduce the possibility of people having negative encounters with police over such minor offenses.”
TEMPORARY PROCEDURES FOR OUTSTANDING TRAFFIC WARRANTS AND NON-INDICTABLE BENCH WARRANTS ANNOUNCED
Warrants of $500 or Less Will Not Result in an Arrest Excluding Domestic Violence-Related Warrants
— City of Newark (@CityofNewarkNJ) April 26, 2021
Under the new policy, which went into effect immediately and will remain in effect indefinitely, officers will still be required to write up a report about their contact with the wanted person, including the outstanding warrant number, offense information, the date issued, the bail amount, and updated contact information for the offender, the city said in the press release.
Although officers will still be expected to complete those reports and perpetuate a cycle of having to complete future reports for the same issue indefinitely, O’Hara said the policy change will help free officers up.
“This will allow the officers to remain on the streets, in the neighborhoods where their presence is needed,” he claimed.
“We don’t want to waste the time of the police officers,” the director reiterated during an interview with TAPinto Newark. “We need our officers in the neighborhoods and communities so their very presence has a preventive effect on crime and helps people feel safe when they see officers in neighborhoods.”
It is unclear what the city plans to do in the event offenders fail to resolve their outstanding warrants after police let them go.