Paterson officials work to regain trust between community and police
The guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial has put a spotlight on policing in the United States and a push to improve police-community relations.
Paterson has seen demonstrations over the past few months in the wake of the death of George Floyd, with many activists saying that the guilty verdict is just the first step to fixing policing in America.
“My initial reaction [to the verdict] was to let out a deep sigh of relief, and I didn’t even know I was holding my breath,” says Zellie Thomas, with Black Lives Matter Paterson.
The 35-year-old says that he couldn’t watch the trial every day, but it still affected his health.
“As soon as the verdict happened, it was like all this tension from my neck vanished. And I think that for a lot of us, there was a lot of tension, a lot of anxiety,” Thomas says.
Police abuse has been a major topic in Paterson, where an FBI probe rocked up nearly 10 arrests. This investigation has caused Mayor Andre Sayegh to take steps to regain that trust.
“Because I understand we have to set the reset button on the relationship between the public and the police, so reestablishing trust is not easy,” Sayegh says.
Paterson is starting with body cameras for officers, more officers on foot and digging into cases of abuse.
But for some, that trust is lost forever.
“What’s going to have to end police violence is the ending of what we know of policing in this country,” Thomas says.
The conversation comes against a backdrop of escalating violence in New Jersey. Murders in the state were up almost 25% in 2020. Paterson had its highest number of murders in 30 years.