By GABRIELLA DRAGONE
PATERSON, NJ – Mayor Andre Sayegh introduced the members of “The Mayor’s Citizen Task Force De-Escalation and Police Practices” on Thursday, a body established by Executive Order by Sayegh earlier this year, partially in commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis.
The executive order is based on policies proposed by The Citizens Campaign and the Paterson Civic Trust that were developed in consultation with experts with extensive law enforcement experience.
“It’s all about trust,” Sayegh said. “Trust between the police and the people that the police protect and serve.”
The Task Force consists of seven community members appointed by the Mayor, all of whom will complete training in evidence-based policy research, conduct public meetings, review an annual De-Escalation performance audit, and serve as advisors to the Mayor and Public Safety Director.
Sayegh expressed the importance of making sure that police officers in Paterson are equipped with body cameras in order to hold everybody accountable.
“It’s all about accountability, integrity, how we’re going to handle the public and how we’re going to De-Escalate the situation,” Jerry Speziale, Paterson Public Safety Director said. “This Task Force is monumental, and it is real.”
De-escalation, in Speziale’s words, is “using more communication skills and interpersonal skills rather than using shields and rushing in and escalating the situation.”
“We are excited to see the De-Escalation Task Force take the next step forward with the Mayor’s appointments today of its members,” Carole Dortch-Wright, a representative of the Citizens Campaign, said. “This Task Force gives the residents of Paterson the ability to make evidence based recommendations for continuing improvements that will help our residents and police officers.”
Community members of the Task Force are all volunteers, and include Taleb Abdul Rahman, Jo Ann Riviello, Marqweesha Guthrie, Raquel Amador, Dalwin Jeremi and Julie Pagan.
Retired Paterson Police Lieutenant Dalton Price will chair the body.
“We have to understand that in the times that we live in, it is very important that the community and police work together,” Price said. “The goal is to give the officers the tools that they need to provide better resources to the community and I guarantee De-Escalation will be a great part in our program.”