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A long, violent battle over policing meets hope for change in Newark

Forty-nine years ago this week, Newark, in New Jersey burned in rebellion against police brutality and racial injustice. Today, activists and authorities continue to grapple with many of the same issues. In this segment, hear perspectives from protesters and police at a Newark rally in the wake of the shootings in Dallas, St. Paul and Baton Rouge.

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  • PROTESTERS:

    What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now!

  • MICHAEL HILL:

    A protest in Newark against police brutality is nothing new. Forty-nine years ago this week, New Jersey's most populated city burned in rebellion. Martial law was imposed and indelibly stained this city and those who lived through it, as I did in Newark's north ward as an 8-year-old boy.

  • MICHAEL HILL:

    I remember my mother repeatedly warning us not look out the window for fear of being shot. But, I managed to sneak a peek or two and when I looked out, I could see military vehicles and troops with big guns rolling down 4th street.

    Barbara King remembers the fear she had during the riots. She says little has changed.

  • BARBARA KING:

    We're still dying. But, thank God people are still struggling.

  • LT. RICHARD CASALE:

    Rich Casale. We're here to assist.

  • MICHAEL HILL:

    A few days after officers were killed in Dallas, the sheriff's department put sharpshooters on rooftops along this protest route protecting Lt. Richard Casale and other officers protecting the protesters. Police ensuring the free speech rights of demonstrators while their uniforms make them targets on the streets.

  • LT. RICHARD CASALE:

    I don't know if it's fear but it's a heightened sense of your surroundings.

  • MICHAEL HILL:

    Lt. Casale has no illusions about what police are up against.

  • LT. RICHARD CASALE:

    I can be very honest people do have a distrust.

  • MICHAEL HILL:

    Police shot and killed 36-year-old Jerame Reid in this graphic dash cam video of a 2014 traffic stop still under federal review. The killing has so hardened Reid's mother, this is what she says about the cops murdered in Dallas.

  • SHEILA REID:

    I have no feelings for those officers that got took out last week.

    The roots of the anger, the distrust and the exasperation in Newark surfaced in July 2014 when the Justice Department's three-year investigation found many Newark police officers over reacted and routinely used excessive force The DOJ concluded that 75% of thestops on the street had no constitutional basis.

    In the Frontline documentary, "Policing the Police," filmmakersrode along with Newark officers and captured the now-disbanded gang unit appearing to trample on one's man rights.

  • MICHAEL HILL:

    What were your thoughts as you saw that?

  • ANTHONY AMBROSE:

    Despicable! That's what I could tell you. I could tell you that the majority of the men and women of the Newark Police Department don't engage in that type of activity like that. I think that sometimes the mistakes or the wrongdoing becomes the norm. and that's something that has to be corrected through training.

  • YOUNG MAN IN FRONTLINE CLIP:

    The way you all approached me, all I was doing was walking home. If you had just asked me, I would have said I was walking home. Do not stereotype, cause that's what you all did to me.

  • UDI OFER:

    It is not an anomaly. What we see are police officers who work under the pressure of quotas who are inadequately trained in how to engage in a lawful stop and who have a warrior mentality.

    In January, Newark's mayor brought back the city's formerpolice director and chief, Anthony Ambrose. Ambrose wants his 992 officers and recruits trained to befriendlier and more engaging. but he says it will take time to put his reforms into action:

  • MICHAEL HILL:

    Are the reforms taking place, the kind of reforms to make real change?

  • UDI OFER:

    The jury's still out on where we are when it comes to reforming the Newark Police Department.

  • MICHAEL HILL:

    In the 1960's, the ACLU of New Jersey called for the creation of a "civilian complaint review board" in Newark. Now, for the first time in its 350 years, the city has one. Advocates consider it the strongest in the nation – at least on paper – with the authority to investigate misconduct complaints, subpoena officers and make sure discipline sticks.

  • UDI OFER:

    And it's a review board that is led by majority of people nominated by community and civil rights organizations. So, that is an incredibly positive step forward.

  • ANTHONY AMBROSE:

    I think we have nothing to hide. I think transparency is very good.

    But officers and their unions worry they could be second-guessed by civilians who have no understanding of the dangers and challenges of policing in a place like Newark:

  • LT. RICHARD CASALE:

    We make decisions instantaneously. If you Monday quarterback and you have an hour to digest it, what we did in half a second, may look unreasonably.

  • REV. BRYANT ALI:

    I'm not totally anti-police because if somebody break in my home, I'mma call the police.

  • MICHAEL HILL:

    Reverend Bryant Ali is one of seven community members sworn in to the civilian review board.

  • REV. BRYANT ALI:

    It's not a cure-all but it's a start and it's better than what we had before.

  • MICHAEL HILL:

    Newark school teacher Brian Hohmann was one of several white marchers we met in the recent and mostly black protest. Hohmann believes in Black Lives Matter because he says those lives are among the most vulnerable. He fears reforms can only go so far … fundamental change is needed.

  • BRIAN HOHMANN:

    I don't think that police officers, inside their uniforms, inside their bodies, are racists themselves, seeking to kill black people. But I do think they's something about the role of police officers and the institution of policing that leads to racist killings.

  • ASHLEY PARKER:

    I want my kids to be aware of what's going on.

    We also met Ashley Parker. She came with her 6-year-old son Nysir and 8-year-old daughter Nevaeh. She says she lost three teenage friends to deadly encounters with Newark Police a decade ago but she sees last week's tragedies as a teachable moment for police and protesters.

  • MICHAEL HILL:

    Ashley Parker says change takes time but she's hopeful:

  • ASHLEY PARKER:

    Do you think this will change any time soon, in your lifetime, in your son's lifetime? In my son's lifetime, yes. I feel like, in my son's lifetime, yes, I do.

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