Less than a month after police in that city fatally shot a well-known crisis interventionist during a tense standoff, the attorney general of New Jersey said on Monday that his agency had taken control of Paterson’s police force.
Paterson is the third-largest city in the state.
In a press release, Attorney General Matt Platkin stated that his office had swiftly taken over management of all police operations, including the division responsible for looking into internal policy concerns.
Although he didn’t specifically reference the shooting of Najee Seabrooks, 31, the activist criticism of the department’s management was reflected in his announcement.
There is a crisis of confidence in law enforcement in the City of Paterson, according to Platkin, due to several incidents and worries involving the Paterson Police Department.
The people of Paterson deserve a public safety system that serves and protects all members of the community.
Isa Abbassi, a 25-year veteran of the New York Police Department and the chief of strategic initiatives at that agency, will take over the police force in Paterson in May, according to Platkin.
A member of the New Jersey State Police will serve as the department’s interim chief in the interim.
The duration of the takeover is unknown. According to Platkin, the takeover is the first step in making the city safer and more equitable.
He claimed he is making several additional adjustments in addition to the takeover.
These include a program that sends a police officer and a mental health screener to respond to 911 calls regarding cognitive or behavioral health issues while traveling in an unmarked car.
Also, he declared that the state would update its policies nationwide for handling those who had barricaded themselves in a space, as Seabrooks had done for more than five hours before his death.
To research and offer advice on interactions between police officers and violence intervention officers, Platkin also established a “working group.”
In the early morning, the stalemate began. On March 3, Seabrooks’ brother’s apartment, where he was holed up in the bathroom, received a call from the police.
At least seven times, Seabrooks, a crisis interventionist and mentor with the nonprofit Paterson Healing Collective, called 911 to report threats against him and his need for emergency assistance.
Soon after, police arrived and approached him via the door, offering to get him water and even using the word “love” once. But, the tension rose when he admitted to police that he was carrying a knife and a “pocket rocket” rifle.
According to the attorney general’s office, Seabrooks was shot by police after he came out of the bathroom with a knife.
His death shocked his coworkers, who were present and texting with him, according to Liza Chowdhury, Seabrooks’ manager at the Paterson Healing Collective.
She claimed that despite Seabrooks’ requests to see them via text to coworkers, cops prevented them from entering the flat.
Anti-violence activists staged a vigil in the days after his passing to demand several reforms, including establishing a civilian review board.
According to the ACLU of New Jersey, the incident demonstrates the necessity for funding non-law enforcement responses to mental health concerns.
The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice has requested that the Justice Department investigate the city’s police force.