New Jersey AG announces state takeover of Paterson Police Department
On September 10th, 2020, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced that the state would be taking over the Paterson Police Department. This decision comes after years of allegations of corruption, misconduct, and excessive use of force within the department. The takeover will be led by former New Jersey State Police Superintendent Colonel Rick Fuentes, who will serve as the state monitor for the department. Fuentes will have the power to make changes to the department's policies, procedures, and training programs, as well as to discipline officers who violate those policies. The decision to take over the Paterson Police Department was not made lightly. In a statement, Grewal said, We have been closely monitoring the Paterson Police Department for years, and we have seen a pattern of misconduct and abuse that cannot be allowed to continue. This takeover is a necessary step to ensure that the people of Paterson are served by a police department that is accountable, transparent, and committed to the highest standards of professionalism. The Paterson Police Department has a long history of controversy. In 2018, a federal lawsuit was filed against the department, alleging that officers had engaged in a pattern of unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests of Black and Latino residents. The lawsuit also alleged that officers had used excessive force, including shooting a man in the back as he fled from them. In addition to the federal lawsuit, the department has faced numerous other allegations of misconduct and corruption. In 2016, a police officer was caught on video stealing money from a suspect's car. In 2017, two officers were charged with conspiracy to commit theft and official misconduct for allegedly stealing money from a man they had arrested. The state takeover of the Paterson Police Department is a significant step towards addressing the systemic issues within the department. However, it is only the beginning of a long process of reform. The state monitor will need to work closely with the department's leadership, officers, and community members to implement meaningful changes that will improve the department's relationship with the community and ensure that officers are held accountable for their actions. The people of Paterson deserve a police department that they can trust and rely on to keep them safe. The state takeover of the Paterson Police Department is a crucial step towards achieving that goal. It is now up to the state monitor and the department's leadership to work together to create a police department that is worthy of the community's trust and respect.