Hospital CEO calls for better de-escalation training for police dealing with emotionally disturbed people
Can more be done when an emotionally unstable person becomes violent? That’s what many are asking a day after authorities released police body camera video of a Paterson man fatally shot by police officers following a standoff.
Officials say that Najee Seabrooks barricaded himself inside a bathroom in a Mill Street apartment on March 3. Police say that Seabrooks moved toward officers with a knife in his hand.
“Don’t you know I’ve got like four knives and two guns,” Seabrooks could be heard saying.
The report from the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General states that Seabrooks told officers that he would die in the bathroom and take a police officer with him. Paterson police would bring in family members to help and used what was described “as less than lethal” sponge-tipped projectiles to try and subdue him. But was it enough?
"They did not want to kill that man in that room. They tried everything they could and every available resource they had,” says Dennis Benigno, with Street Cop Training.
Benigno teaches de-escalation to officers. He says he believes Paterson police officers had to use deadly force when Seabrooks lunged at them with a knife. He says that he does not agree with those who say that police officers shouldn’t have been armed in a situation like this.
"We have to stay armed for a reason. We see this in mass shootings,” Benigno says. "De-arming a police officer in a situation like this certainly isn't the resolution."
But people like Kevin Slavin, CEO of St. Joseph’s Medical Center, say that there is an alternative.
Slavin put out a statement saying, "As we search for answers on the tragic death of Najee Seabrooks, many of us continue to struggle with what more we could have done so this would not have happened."
He says he wants to know why police didn't call for help from St. Joseph's "Psychiatric Emergency Service.” Their Mobile Outreach Team was deployed 379 times in 2022.
Slavin says he is hopeful that in the future Paterson police reach out.
St. Joseph’s is developing a program to help train offices how to deal with those who are emotionally disturbed. The program is set to begin in the spring.