Attorney General’s office takes over Paterson Police Department

New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin

Less than a month after officers in the state’s third-largest city fatally shot a well-known crisis intervention worker during a tense standoff, Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin took control of the Paterson Police Department, and assuming control of all police functions, including internal affairs investigations, effective immediately.

Although he did not mention him by name, the decision is a direct result of what happened during an hours-long standoff before Paterson police fatally shot Najee Seabrooks on March 3.

Seabrooks, who was a crisis intervention worker at the nonprofit Paterson Healing Collective, called 911 at least seven times and told dispatchers that people were threatening him and he needed immediate help.

Najee Seabrooks, 31, of Paterson
Paterson police fatally shot Najee Seabrooks, 31, on March 3.

The standoff started about 8 a.m. when heavily armored police responded to Seabrooks’ brother’s apartment, where he had been holed up in the bathroom.

Arriving officers talked to Seabrooks through the door, offering to get him water and calling him “love” in one instance. but the tension increased when he told police he was armed with a “pocket rocket” gun and a knife.

Eventually, officers fatally shot the well-known crisis intervention worker.

Platkin appointed Isa Abbassi, a twenty-five-year veteran of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and its current Chief of Strategic Initiatives, to the position of Officer-in-Charge of the Paterson Police Department and he will step into that role in May.

In the interim, key members of the Attorney General’s staff and leaders from within the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) will take command of the department.

As the current Chief of Strategic Initiatives for the NYPD, Isa Abbassi oversees policy reforms for the entire NYPD police force. He has served in the NYPD since 1997, and has successfully managed command of more than 30,000 members of the force as the Deputy Chief of Police.

In the wake of the death in police custody of Eric Garner in Staten Island in 2014, Abbassi was selected by the New York City Police Commissioner to build community relationships with the police in Staten Island.

Not only were his efforts effective in rebuilding community trust with the police, he enhanced public safety and police morale while implementing reforms.

Abbassi was awarded NYPD’s most prestigious command recognition, the Unit Citation, for crime and violence reduction in Staten Island in 2019.

Abbassi will assume his role at the Paterson Police Department in May. In the interim, the Department will be overseen by Major Fred Fife of the NJSP, as the Interim Officer-in-Charge.

Fife will be joined by Captain Jafca Mandziuk also of the NJSP, and Assistant Attorney General Joseph Walsh, as well as other members of the Department of Law and Public Safety.

“Due to a number of events and concerns relating to the Paterson Police Department, there is a crisis of confidence in law enforcement in the City of Paterson,” said Platkin. “People throughout Paterson deserve a public safety system that protects and serves all members of its community, just as the members of the Paterson Police Department deserve adequate resources, support, and innovation from their leadership.”

“Abbassi is an experienced, proven leader who has built community trust and achieved excellence through his innovation at the highest levels of law enforcement in this country,” said Platkin. “I am committed to restoring public confidence in the Paterson Police Department, which includes providing the officers on the force the support, resources, supervision, and training they need to be an exemplary police department.”

In addition to assuming control of the city’s police department, the Attorney General announced several initiatives to improve public safety in Paterson, and throughout the state.

Among those initiatives are a mental health-law enforcement co-responder program, new protocols for barricaded individuals, and forming a working group to come up with recommendations concerning interactions between law enforcement and community-based violence intervention groups.

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