‘Ultimately yes, the buck stops right here’: Long-awaited audit of Paterson's police force completed

A new audit of the Paterson police force finds the department has issues with training and needs to improve its use of force policies.
Mayor Andre Sayegh ordered the report after a man died in police custody back in 2019.
Outside a store on Keen and Mercer streets Sunday afternoon, 29-year-old Elijah Bracey was shot multiple times in broad daylight. His aunt, who did not want to go on camera, told News 12 that Bracey is now recovering.
But people like her in places like Paterson's Fourth Ward are caught between disgust at street violence and distrust of the police department that's supposed to protect them.
“When we have that lack of trust in the community, then that is just a breeding ground for disaster in cities like ours,” says Zellie Thomas, with Black Lives Matter Paterson.
Last week, a long-awaited audit of Paterson's police force was completed by the Police Executive Research Forum. It said the Paterson department is underfunded, and had out of date procedures, command structure and policies, including use of force, that are out of date.
“We haven't got any answers,” says Thomas. “We haven't got any of the recommendations that will lead to accountability and transparency.”
Along with surging crime, the Paterson Police Department has dealt with serious corruption issues and seen multiple officers arrested by the FBI. Mayor Sayegh, who's up for reelection in May, says he wants to build trust in the community.
“Ultimately yes, the buck stops right here,” says Sayegh. “Above everything we have to restore trust between the police and the public and as you know it has been shaken.”
Thomas says the audit doesn't change his view of a department.
“When police officers are allowed to abuse their powers and get away with it, then that continues to erode any kind of trust between police and the community,” says Thomas.
Meanwhile, the report recommends repairing the extremely poor facilities at police headquarters and adding a locker room for women.
The Passaic County Prosecutor's Office ruled Jameek Lowery's death an accident in 2019, but a federal judge late last year allowed a wrongful death lawsuit by Lowery's family against the city to proceed.