March 29, 2023

NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice today responded to Attorney General Matthew Platkin’s announcement of an AG takeover of Paterson police and other initiatives. The following can be attributed to Yannick Wood, Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice:

“It is encouraging that the Attorney General recognizes the deeply rooted problems plaguing the Paterson Police, and that he has taken swift action to address them. He is right to acknowledge the ‘crisis of confidence in law enforcement’ in Paterson. We, and he, must also remember that the ‘crisis in confidence’ is a direct result of a crisis in policing – and a crisis of police violence – against Black and other people of color.

“Ultimately, the proof will be in the pudding. Given the long history of police violence in Paterson and the lack of state action and prosecution in several instances, we – and other advocates – will be monitoring closely to see how this takeover plays out. We expect the AG will provide implementation details and regular progress reports, and involve the community at every step.

“We also support the formation of a working group to study and propose recommendations for interactions between law enforcement and community-based violence groups. Clearly when Paterson police prevented the Paterson Healing Collective from assisting Najee Seabrooks during his mental health crisis, that interaction failed.

“The new working group must include robust representation from community violence groups – and be imbued with a sense of innovative and open-minded thinking, rather than burdened by a bias favoring tried and failed policing that leads with law enforcement in response to mental health crises. The same should apply to the creation of new use of force protocols regarding ‘barricaded individuals’ suffering a mental health crisis.

“In that vein, we continue to encourage the state to support a mental health responders first approach that goes beyond ARRIVE Together and that includes leading with expert community mental health intervention.

“Finally, the widespread, persistent and intrinsic problems that pervade the Paterson Police Department still require federal investigation by the Department of Justice as we and nearly 50 others groups have urged. The New Jersey Attorney General and DOJ must work together to allow both interventions to proceed smoothly and effectively.”