PATERSON, NEW JERSEY (UNF NEWS) – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin of New Jersey announced that his Office is superseding the Paterson Police Department, and assuming control of all police functions, including internal affairs investigations, effective immediately. Isa Abbassi, a twenty-five-year veteran of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and its current Chief of Strategic Initiatives, will become the Officer-in-Charge of the Paterson Police Department in May, having been appointed to that position by Attorney General Platkin. In the interim, command of the department will be assumed by key members of the Attorney General’s staff and leaders from within the New Jersey State Police (NJSP).
As the current Chief of Strategic Initiatives for the NYPD, Isa Abbassi oversees policy reforms for the entire NYPD police force. He has served in the NYPD since 1997, and has successfully managed command of more than 30,000 members of the force as the Deputy Chief of Police. In the wake of the death in police custody of Eric Garner in Staten Island in 2014, Chief Abbassi was selected by the New York City Police Commissioner to build community relationships with the police in Staten Island. Not only were his efforts effective in rebuilding community trust with the police, he enhanced public safety and police morale while implementing reforms. Chief Abbassi was awarded NYPD’s most prestigious command recognition, the Unit Citation, for crime and violence reduction in Staten Island in 2019.
Chief Abbassi will assume his role at the Paterson Police Department in May. In the interim, the Department will be overseen by Major Fred Fife of the NJSP, as the Interim Officer-in-Charge. Major Fife will be joined by Captain Jafca Mandziuk also of the NJSP, and Assistant Attorney General Joseph Walsh, as well as other members of the Department of Law and Public Safety.
“Due to a number of events and concerns relating to the Paterson Police Department, there is a crisis of confidence in law enforcement in the City of Paterson,” said Attorney General Platkin. “People throughout Paterson deserve a public safety system that protects and serves all members of its community, just as the members of the Paterson Police Department deserve adequate resources, support, and innovation from their leadership. Chief Abbassi is an experienced, proven leader who has built community trust and achieved excellence through his innovation at the highest levels of law enforcement in this country. I am grateful for his service and I look forward to working with him to ensure public safety in Paterson. I am committed to restoring public confidence in the Paterson Police Department, which includes providing the officers on the force the support, resources, supervision, and training they need to be an exemplary police department.”
In addition to assuming control of the City’s police department, Attorney General Platkin is announcing the following initiatives to improve public safety in Paterson, and throughout the state:
Implementation of the ARRIVE (Alternative Responses to Reduce Instances of Violence & Escalation) Together mental health-law enforcement co-responder program in Passaic County – including bringing ARRIVE Together to Paterson. Currently operating in Cumberland, Union, and Atlantic Counties, and set to expand to additional counties this summer, ARRIVE Together pairs an officer, who is crisis intervention trained, with a mental health screener in an unmarked vehicle to respond to 9-1-1 calls for service relating to mental or behavioral health crises. Governor Murphy has proposed $10 million in next year’s budget to expand the program statewide. With the support of Governor Murphy, the Attorney General is in the planning stages of bringing the ARRIVE Together initiative to Passaic County, and is committed to implementing the program in the City of Paterson as soon as the framework and appropriate supports are in place.
Revising the statewide Use of Force Policy to include protocols for barricaded individuals. Situations involving people who are barricaded within a room or other confined space pose significant challenges and risks for all involved – civilians and officers alike – and such situations may arise for any number of reasons. In order to ensure that law enforcement’s response is as effective and consistent with our Use of Force principles as possible, the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability will engage with experts and stakeholders to develop protocols that guide the appropriate use of force, and the successful use of mental health professionals, in such situations.
Formation of a working group to study and produce policy recommendations concerning interactions between law enforcement and community-based violence intervention (CBVI) groups. Both law enforcement officers and violence intervention specialists are critically important to ensuring public safety in New Jersey communities. They are complementary parts of a holistic approach. There may be times when effective interaction between these entities will optimize public safety outcomes. Moreover, taking a comprehensive and effective approach to reducing violence in our communities requires that we develop strategies that facilitate and encourage partnership between law enforcement and community-based components of our public safety system. The Attorney General is convening a working group to propose protocols for such interactions and for better coordination.
“This announcement will not quell the strife in the City of Paterson overnight,” continued Attorney General Platkin. “It will not immediately restore public confidence that the police are committed to providing every resident of Paterson with fair, just, and effective public safety. Nor will it address the concerns of officers asked to do a hard and dangerous job in a community that—after years of fiscal challenges and a revolving door of police leadership—has lost faith in its police department, making the jobs of those officers even more difficult. Rather, the actions taken by my office today represent a pledge to the residents and officers of Paterson that the State of New Jersey is committed to the safety and success of the entire Paterson Community. Exercising control over the police department and bringing in nationally recognized police leadership for the department is the first step of a process towards a safer and more just City of Paterson.”