PATERSON, N.J. (PIX11) — Paterson, New Jersey, resident Bilal Hakeem lives on a stretch of Broadway – one of the city’s main thoroughfares – which has long been a hot spot for crime and other quality of life concerns.
“The police have made an impression and statement with their presence here,” said Hakeem.
While supportive of recent police department efforts to clean up the neighborhood, Hakeem is cautiously optimistic about the state-run police department’s ongoing plan to restore the public’s faith in law enforcement.
“Because historically the police with the Black community has not always been that good,” said Hakeem.
New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin and his appointed officer in charge, Isa Abbassi, offered a six-month progress report of the state takeover and the future of community policing on Tuesday.
“The planned designation of 12, ward-based community coordination officers. These members, two per ward, will serve as the department’s liaisons,” said Abbassi.
Around 55 initiatives include using artificial intelligence to analyze officer body camera video, and friendly police dogs to engage with residents. But officials said most of the plan revolves around restoring public trust.
“We’ve already revised department policy and guidance to require that officers be equipped with alternative, less lethal devices,” said Platkin.
For Shandora, who also lives on Broadway, that’s a tall order.
“How could heightened aggression make it a better and more welcoming place? Your presence and constantly making people move from place to place doesn’t mean that it’s making the community better,” said Shandora.
Platkin said he’s listening to resident concerns, including dispatching police officers to calls where their presence might unnecessarily escalate tensions.
“We are going to build a program that involves non-law enforcement response to crisis intervention,” said Platkin.
Paterson community activist Corey Teague said, “Like I’ve said to several people, the plan sounds good, but it’s just the implementation, because we’re just waiting to see how it’s going to be implemented,” said Teague.
Platkin said he expects the new program — dispatching non-law enforcement to certain calls — to be up and running before the end of this year.
Platkin also refused to be pinned down on just how long the state takeover of the police department could last. It’s already slated to go for another 18 months, but Platkin added that it could last “indefinitely,” until he’s satisfied the department is running the way it should.