NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice today was joined by the family (estate) of Najee Seabrooks and over 55 organizations in a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) strongly urging the DOJ to investigate Paterson Police Department’s (PPD) longstanding pattern of illegal, abusive and racially disparate policing.
The letter follows a previous request for federal intervention sent to DOJ on March 13. Today’s follow-up letter emphasizes that a federal investigation remains critical despite New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin’s takeover of the PPD on March 27.
On March 3, Najee Seabrooks was killed by police while experiencing a mental health crisis. Mr. Seabrooks, trained in violence intervention, worked for the Paterson Healing Collective, an organization with that specialty. His co-workers were on the scene and attempted to provide non-violent assistance to him but were prevented from doing so by police.
“With the death of Najee Seabrooks and the deaths and serious injuries of others at the hands of the PPD, there has never been a more urgent need for police accountability in Paterson,” said the letter. “We are pleased with and recognize Attorney General Platkin’s intervention as a significant step in the right direction. It is a necessary and immediate response. At the same time, given the scope of the challenge in Paterson, and the length of time it will take to fully address it, we continue to maintain that a DOJ investigation is necessary.”
The letter listed several reasons for the necessity of DOJ intervention despite the New Jersey Attorney General’s takeover of PPD: (1) the DOJ oversees yearslong investigations and consent decrees and will provide the continuity necessary for a transformation of the PPD; (2) the DOJ’s investigations are exhaustive, transparent and could result in a review of policy, the creation, with community engagement, of new policies, and conducting of audits staffed by independent subject matter experts to ensure compliance with new policies; and (3) local residents, community leaders and advocates in Paterson could have confidence that the DOJ will conduct an independent and thorough investigation of police abuse in their city.
A full copy of the letter, which details each of these factors and includes signatories, can be found here.
The letter concludes, “Paterson’s residents deserve federal intervention in their police department. The undersigned organizations strongly urge the DOJ to investigate patterns and practices of unconstitutional misconduct in the PPD.”