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How can New Jersey end police misconduct? Stop keeping it secret. | Opinion

Michelle Feldman & Vanessa Potkin | August 9, 2020 | Star-Ledger |


The Memorial Day killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis officer who had racked up 18 misconduct complaints over two decades — yet was only reprimanded twice — has reignited a national movement for police accountability.

Unchecked police abuse is not only taking innocent Black lives on the streets but also in courtrooms through wrongful convictions. Two-thirds of wrongfully convicted New Jerseyans are Black, and many were unjustly imprisoned by corrupt officers. In these cases, while the innocent person was behind bars, those who actually committed the crimes remained free to harm others.

Two years ago, Eric Kelley and Ralph Lee were exonerated of a 1993 murder in Paterson after spending 24 years in prison. Richard Reyes, the lead detective in the case, was largely responsible for putting them there. Reyes was central in the police interrogations in which the men were beaten and threatened until they allegedly confessed. There were no recordings or notes of what happened — only a statement typed by Reyes. In addition, Reyes used suggestive tactics to get one eyewitness to identify Lee, and failed to disclose that another eyewitness said the assailant was not Kelley or Lee who he knew. In 2018, DNA testing proved the men were innocent and revealed the identity of an individual who may have committed the crime.


Read the full oped here