PATERSON, NJ - A team of police executives with nationwide experience are set to embark on a 9-month audit of the Paterson Police Department, Mayor Andre Sayegh announced Monday.
Originally announced in January 2019 as part of his “tools for trust” designed to restore faith in local law enforcement by the community in the days following Jameel Lowery’s death, the “top to bottom” audit of the Paterson Police Department will be conducted by Washington, D.C. based Police Executive Resource Forum (PERF).
“The City of Paterson and the Paterson Police Department are focused on finding ways to improve the way we protect and serve,” Sayegh said. “Together, we aim to make sure that a 21st century policing model becomes a reality in the City of Paterson.”
“2019 was a difficult year,” for police relations with the community, Sayegh acknowledged, mentioning not only the death of Jameek Lowery but also the eight “crooked cops” brought up on federal charges for their conduct while on duty.
The “independent assessment” which the Paterson City Council recently approved at a cost of $160,000, will, Sayegh said, help the city’s law enforcement agency gain the “techniques and technology to improve how we protect and serve.”
Sayegh was flanked by the Paterson Police Department’s top brass at the announcement, including Chief Ibrahim “Mike” Baycora who said that while he has “faith in the men and women” he serves with it “can’t hurt to have a fresh set of eyes,” on how they carry out their duties.
“A lot of cities try to sweep it under the rug,” when their police departments face issues, Chuck Wexler, executive director or PERF said in offering praise to Paterson officials for taking this step. “Your city won’t be defined by what happened last year, but what you do in the future.”
“Let’s get stronger,” he said of the police department, “Let’s get better.”
Speaking of the organization’s past experience, Wexler said that PERF has helped write federal guidelines for the use of tasers and body cameras, conducted a similar audit of the Chicago Police Department’s Homicide Unit, and helped the City of Philadelphia hire their new police commissioner.
Tom Wilson, Director for the Center of Applied Research and Management at PERF, outlined that the audit will focus on several areas, including organizational structure, leadership, strategy, and use of force policies and training.
The initial phase, he said, will include a lot of data gathering, including through the facilitation of a focus groups of community members.
“We will identify what you do well and how you can improve,” WIlson said.
Leading the effort on behalf of PERF will be Charles H. Ramsey, a more than 50-year veteran of police work in Chicago, Washington D.C., and, most recently, Philadelphia.
A lot has changed in policing, Ramsey said, including the use of technology in crime fighting and “community expectations” of police departments. “Every department can improve,” he suggested.
“If you think you’re the best today there’s no guarantee it will be the same tomorrow.”
Among the community leaders at the press conference was Casey Melvin who called the audit a “great idea.” Lamenting that minorities make up to large a portion of those arrested, and incarcerated, Melvin shared his hope that the study’s findings, once implemented, will help “change the dynamic and bring balance to an improved police department.”
“We can help each other,” Melvin said, echoing comments Baycora made to TAPinto Paterson in a recent conversation. “If community members feel they have a good relationship with law enforcement, he continued, they are more likely to share information that can help reduce crimes.
“Everyone works better with friends than opposition,” he concluded.
Asked about the length of time it has taken to get the launch of the study, and how long it will be before its impact will be felt, Sayegh said “we are looking to make progress, not just to implement best practices, but also next practices.”
Know a story we should share with readers? Email editor Steve Lenox and tell him about it.