Paterson mayor announces new police initiatives after death of city man

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PATERSON -

It has been 10 days since the death of a Paterson man who had an encounter with city police officers, and answers are still not coming fast enough for the man’s family or city officials.

Tensions have remained high among Paterson residents and the Paterson Police Department in the wake of 27-year-old Jameek Lowery’s death, leading Mayor Andre Sayegh to announce some new initiatives to strengthen the trust between police and the public.

"I want to reassure you that your concerns have been heard and I will demand accountability and transparency. I will own this work,” Sayegh said. “This is a call for unity, which starts with trust.”

Sayegh’s “Tools for Trust” reforms include a full independent audit of the Paterson police force, more body camera funding and a new citizen advisory board.

“This will help us avoid mistrust, misunderstanding and miscommunication,” the mayor said.

Lowery died Jan. 7, two days after he showed up at the Paterson Police Headquarters seeking help. He filmed himself on Facebook Live and told police that he was paranoid and thought someone was trying to kill him. Earlier that evening he called 911 and told the operator that he had taken too much ecstasy.

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Paterson police officials admit that officers had to use some force to get Lowery to the hospital. But they say that he did not suffer any trauma.

Health officials say that Lowery had meningitis, but autopsy results have not yet been released to determine the cause of death.

Lowery’s family has alleged that he died from some type of police brutality. Lowery's mother Patrice king has hired forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden to perform an independent autopsy on his body. And an attorney representing Lowery’s father says that the family is calling for an independent investigation into the death.

"This concept of that the police were using compliance holds - it's ludicrous. It's laughable. It's offensive. A compliance hold doesn't correlate with your face being busted open. That simply doesn't work,” says attorney Harley Breite.

Mayor Sayegh avoided questions about if he wants the state attorney general’s office to take over the investigation. But he says that he is in constant contact with Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

RELATED: ‘My heart is broken’ – Family wants answers after death of Paterson man 

Lowery’s family has also accused the police department of harassing them following his death. Lowery’s cousin and sister were arrested Wednesday after police showed up to an area for reports of drug activity.

“I cannot comment on that. I have not seen that,” said Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale.

Speziale has led internal investigations into alleged police corruption in the past. He says that they are necessary to clear out a small number of unfit officers.

“You always build on best practices with police. And that's what 21st century policing is all about,” he says.

The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the death.

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