Concerns raised over granting police power to break up crowds outside stores | Paterson Times

Concerns raised over granting police power to break up crowds outside stores


An ordinance seeking to arm the city’s police department with the power to break up crowds that form outside establishments disturbing commerce is being questioned by Rigo Rodriguez, councilman at-large.

“Are they clear on what we’re asking for?” asked Rodriguez of the city’s police. Rodriguez mentioned an example of a person exiting a grocery store and spotting a friend on the sidewalk. “A friend of mine I haven’t seen in a while, and I’m talking to him for ten minutes, I don’t think I deserve be approached,” commented Rodriguez.

“Hopefully, the police will not misuse any power or authority granted to them by this ordinance, but I can’t say they won’t,” answered Kenneth McDaniel, councilman at-large. “What we’re trying to do here is clean up our streets. When we travel through Paterson we find certain locations in particular — for years, decades even — have been overrun by individuals not looking to do things of positive nature: drug dealing, street harassment.”

McDaniel mentioned reports of women and young girls being harassed by crowds who loiter outside establishments when they walk pass.

Rodriguez said he isn’t against the measure, but he would like to see a monitoring system put in place. “We have to have some type of monitoring,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez wants police officers to not issue a ticket on seeing a group hanging outside a store, but to revisit the same location and only if the same individuals are hanging outside the establishment, only then should an officer approach to ticket.

McDaniel offered to share a video with Rodriguez of an altercation that began outside of an establishment that ended up inside the store. And once inside the establishment, one of the disputants pulled out a gun.

When store owners complained to police of the crowd, the police were powerless to break up the groups, said McDaniel. Loitering laws which existed in the state have been struck down for being unconstitutional, exacerbating problems of outside hangouts.

“If any member of the governing body feel this gives police too much power in their hands, and you don’t trust them with enacting such an ordinance, then I think that would deserves a no-vote,” said McDaniel.

Prior to being introduced in the council the ordinance was vetted in committee and workshop meetings. “It passed on first reading,” said McDaniel.

Council president Andre Sayegh said Trenton Avenue has the same issue with crowds hanging outside establishments. “Next week we’ll have an opportunity to vote this up or down,” said Sayegh.

A second reading for the ordinance is set for Tuesday.