In the wake of the killing of Najee Seabrooks by Paterson police officers earlier this month, a major coalition of activist groups has signed onto a letter asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Paterson Police Department (PPD).
The coalition – which includes the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, the ACLU of New Jersey, and 45 other organizations – argues that the PPD has long utilized excessive force and other unjust practices, with the killing of Seabrooks being only the latest and most severe example.
“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,” the letter reads.
On March 3, Seabrooks, an antiviolence activist in Paterson, barricaded himself inside his own home and entered into a standoff with cops during an apparent mental health episode. After several hours of negotiations, Paterson police officers shot and killed Seabrooks, allegedly because he had brandished a knife.
In their letter, the coalition notes that mental health services could have been deployed instead, which may have resulted in a non-lethal situation.
“If the Paterson Healing Collective had been empowered to deploy their violence intervention resources and expertise, Mr. Seabrooks would still be alive today,” the letter reads, referring to the organization Seabrooks himself worked for. “Instead, the PPD prevented PHC from working, resulting in the use of excessive police force and killing of Mr. Seabrooks. Mr. Seabrooks desperately needed and deserved treatment, which was available to him, not a death sentence imposed upon him by PPD.”
There is precedent for a Justice Department investigation into local police departments following a high-profile shooting. The department recently released the results from its investigation into the Louisville Police Department in response to the 2020 shooting of Breonna Taylor; the New Jersey coalition’s letter asks the DOJ to “bring that investigatory power to Paterson.”
Several days after the shooting, New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin – essentially the leader of the state’s own justice department – said in a statement that an investigation is ongoing.Request_for_DOJ_Investigation_into_Paterson_PD