2 minute reading
NJ AG details take over Paterson NJ Police Department
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office announced its takeover of the Paterson Police Department on Monday, March 27th.
Tariq Zehawi, NorthJersey.com
PATERSON – City officials are asking for millions of dollars in additional state funding to cover possible expenses stemming from New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin’s takeover of the Paterson Police Department.
Paterson’s March 30 state transition grant application said the city was seeking $5 million in extra funding just for the AG’s intervention, funding that would be separate from a request for $25 million to cover normal municipal government operations.
City Hall officials said the $5 million on the application was basically a composite number designed to stake Paterson’s claim for extra money, not based on any accounting of needs and costs.
When Platkin announced the takeover four weeks ago in the wake of the fatal police shooting of community activist Najee Seabrooks, Platkin said the state would provide additional resources for the city’s law enforcement operations. But Platkin didn’t quantify that promise.
Paterson police supporters took Platkin’s talk of additional resources as a hopeful sign that the state would improve the department. But social justice advocates have said the state should cut spending on the city’s police department, not increase it.
The Paterson Press sent questions to the AG’s office Monday about the budget for its Paterson Police Department intervention. But the statement from the AG’s office late Friday afternoon in response to those questions contained no numbers.
“There is no overnight fix for the deep-seated problems between the police and the community in Paterson, and we intend to remain in place until they are resolved,” the AG’s statement said. “The process of analyzing needs and resources in the department is currently underway, but it will take some time for that process to be completed.”
The office said the state would provide support “to correct many of the deficiencies in technology, equipment, training and investigative resources.” The state also said it will continue to pay the salaries of New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety attorneys and law enforcement officers assigned to the Paterson Police Department.
But the AG’s office said Paterson will be responsible for funding the police department’s operating budget and the salaries of its employees.
The man Platkin picked to take command in Paterson, Isa Abbassi, was still working as chief of the New York City Police Department when the AG released his announcement in late March. Abbassi will not begin his residency in Paterson until an unspecified date in May, according to state officials. Meanwhile, Platkin put New Jersey State Police Maj. Frederick Fife in the lead.
Mason Maher, president of the union representing Paterson’s rank-and-file police officers, said he and PBA President Alex Cruz met with Abbassi through Zoom on Thursday.
“He told us some positive things,” Maher said, declining to reveal the details of the conversation.
“It’s all still in the early stages,” Maher said. “We are hopeful and we expect the attorney general to keep his word,” the union president added, referring to extra money for the department.
The Paterson Press also asked Mayor Andre Sayegh about the state’s plans for funding the police department. Fife also did not provide any specific figures.
“Our administration has been in close communication with Major Fife and Deputy District Attorney Joe Walsh regarding the allocation of state resources to the city of Paterson and its police department,” the statement from Sayegh’s staff read. “We look forward to reviewing future details.”
Abbassi would be a government employee, the mayor said when asked what the new manager’s salary would be. The AG’s office has not yet disclosed Abbassi’s salary.
Councilman Luiz Velez said he hoped the state would allocate extra money to the police department for training, equipment, salaries and community relations. The councilman claimed that many people have argued that the police department is too short-staffed.
“Everybody knows we don’t have enough officers and it has a domino effect on the quality of life,” Velez said.