The restoration of trust between the police and the public is a national challenge. In Paterson, we acknowledged this persistent issue more than 4 years ago and I unveiled a plan to address it.
Upon taking office in 2018, not a single police officer wore a body camera and as a result of my efforts, now every single police officer in Paterson wears one. This has led to a significant increase in transparency. Citizens no longer have to wonder what occurred in police interactions, now they can watch for themselves. We then conducted a top to bottom audit performed on the police department. Many of the recommendations of the audit including regular de-escalation training of our officers have been implemented.
In my previous opinion piece, I underscored the fact that public safety is paramount and a priority for me. That is why I am not stopping with the progress we have made. Earlier this year, I scheduled a trip to Omaha to learn more about their successful initiative that has helped reduce gun violence and improve the relationship between the police and the public.
New efforts: CompStat, Citizens Advisory Board
Furthermore, last month my administration began a dialogue with the School on Policing at Rutgers University to work with the institution to identify and ultimately adopt best practices in public safety. Additionally, we have hired a data analyst to study our police data and to implement the CompStat model, which will increase police accountability. Moreover, officers who violated their oath before I took office were brought to justice by our own department and I am pursuing legal action to take back the salaries they did not earn.
In deepening existing partnerships, for the last three weeks I have been in discussion with members of the clergy and community-based organizations in Paterson about the creation of a Citizens Advisory Board. The board will afford residents an opportunity to regularly meet with police command and review policies as well as voice their concerns and opinions on policing in the community.
'Connect and Protect'
Last year, Paterson Police successfully responded to 2,883 calls related to emotionally disturbed individuals. This year we have received over 600 calls. Building upon the police response, we sought out and were awarded a grant for the forthcoming “Connect and Protect" program. This initiative would create a co-response between the police and a mental health professional whenever a call is received for an emotionally distressed person. That program is in the process of being implemented.
With our ongoing efforts to restore trust with the community, we have also had success in reducing gun violence in Paterson. Three months into 2023, we have seen a steep decrease in gun violence. We have reduced shootings by approximately 40%.
Policing is not a perfect science and I have repeatedly said that the Paterson Police Department is a work in progress. The overwhelming majority of our men and women in our police department are exemplary law enforcement officials. We recently welcomed the New Jersey Attorney General to Paterson to help enhance our ongoing efforts to improve public safety in our city. We are eager to review the attorney general’s plan and timeline, as well the resources he has promised to provide to our under-resourced police department.
Public safety is a partnership.
Andre Sayegh is mayor of Paterson.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Paterson NJ mayor: Police will implement CompStat, advisory board