After years of controversy and bad behavior, on Monday, the New Jersey State Attorney General’s Office seized control of the scandal-scarred Paterson Police Department.
At a press conference on Monday, state AG Matthew Platkin said his office would oversee and manage the daily operations of the Paterson PD, including the internal affairs division. He said, “Due to a number of events and concerns relating to the Paterson Police Department, there is a crisis of confidence in law enforcement in the City of Paterson.”
The announcement comes during the recent shooting of Paterson community activist Najee Seabrooks. The 31-year-old community activist was in a mental health crisis and killed during an encounter with the police earlier this month. He was shot and killed by two police officers after a five-hour standoff. Police claimed Seabrooks had lunged at them with at least one knife. His death has sparked numerous protests in the city of Paterson and beyond.
As I followed the case, I was reminded of an interview I had several years ago with Imam Hamza Abdus Salam in Paterson. He is Muslim, a community activist, and a native of Paterson.
At the time, he shared a personal story about how his son, Randolph Waddy, was killed in a suspicious motorcycle crash that involved two Paterson police officers and how the Paterson PD did little to fully investigate the crime. The two officers involved were eventually charged with official misconduct. However, the Imam and others felt the charges weren’t enough. He also shared with me how he, along with hundreds of other people of color and others in the city, did not trust the police and, in many cases, did not see the men in blue as purveyors of peace and legality but instead viewed them as precipitators of chaos and illegality.
Fast forward to now and the state’s control of the PPD. It further proves Imam Hamza Abdus Salam’s stinging criticism and dire prediction about the future of Paterson law enforcement was and still remains valid.
In a statement to the media on Monday, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayeh said the city would provide financial and other resources to build and reform the beleaguered force. “We will do everything we can to continue to improve our Police Department for the residents of Paterson,” he said.
By the way, more than a decade later, questions still linger about the death of the Imam’s son and the circumstances involving the tragic accident and the PPD’s involvement.