NEWARK – A coalition of civil rights advocates today sent a letter to the United States Department of Justice calling for a federal investigation into the Paterson Police Department’s pattern of illegal, abusive and racially disparate policing.

The letter follows the recent police killing of Najee Seabrooks while he was in his own home 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.

The letter argues that PPD’s history of egregious misconduct demands federal intervention.

“Residents of Paterson have lived for years under a police department with a history of excessive force and other abuse, all felt disproportionately by Black and Brown residents in one of the most diverse cities in the country,” said the letter.

The coalition’s letter raised deep concerns about the killing of Mr. Seabrooks and included other recent examples of the use of excessive force by the Paterson Police Department (“PPD”); recent examples of illegal searches, seizures and corrupt practices; lack of oversight at PPD; and, importantly, racial disparities in the use of force.

The letter concluded, “A trend of widespread, unconstitutional PPD misconduct is unmistakable – and has disproportionately impacted Black and Brown residents, depriving them of their civil rights … DOJ must intervene to bring about the kind of accountability that Mr. Seabrooks and his family, and others like them, deserve – along with the people of Paterson.”

A full copy of the letter, including signatories, can be found here.