In light of the controversy surrounding the tragic death of Mr. Jameek Lowery, we felt it appropriate at this time to address much of the misinformation and innuendo that has been directed towards the men and women of the Paterson Police Department as a result of this incident. Not just those officers who interacted with Mr. Lowery that evening, but all of Paterson’s finest.
Any loss of life is heartbreaking. The death of Mr. Lowery was no exception. Out of respect for his family, friends and loved ones, it was right to give them the time and space they needed to grieve and mourn the loss of someone who left this world way too soon. It was also proper to let the investigation take its proper course and let the facts of the case lead where they may. Now that the investigation into Mr. Lowery’s death is complete, it is time to lend a voice to the members of our department whose only apparent crime is that they happen to be members of the law enforcement community who work for the Paterson Police Department.
We have arrived at a point in time in our society where most young people get their news from social media, facts are irrelevant, and journalists never miss an opportunity to intentionally hype and sensationalize events in ways that are as tragic as they are irresponsible. Case in point, when Mr. Lowery was rushed to the hospital that evening, photos that appeared in print and on news media outlets the next day depicted him lying intubated in a hospital bed, blood apparently accumulating around his mouth and nose, looking very much like the victim of a violent event.
Since Mr. Lowery was indeed forcibly taken to the hospital and died a short time later, the photo fueled a false narrative that the tragic figure in the hospital bed arrived in that condition at the hands of the police. The only problem is that picture was taken several years prior when Mr. Lowery was the unfortunate victim of gun violence. The very same gun violence the men and women of the Paterson Police Department bravely respond to on a seemingly daily basis.
It seems that nowadays, justice for some is not found in the rule of law, the integrity of our institutions or the prudence of its processes, but rather in those who can stir the crowd or shout the loudest. Mob justice is not justice at all. All it does is diminish and divide all of us and erode the foundations of our civil society. Police officers are people, yet they are rarely treated that way anymore. Just watch the news, if anyone still does. Look at the way the officers in the NYPD are treated, first water and now Chinese food being thrown at them and for what…only because they wear blue.
Politicians today are often big in stature but small in character. They worry more about pandering and appeasement than they do about stewardship and truth. For the police to function effectively they need the support of their elected officials and the trust of the community they serve. Statements have been made following the tragic events surrounding Mr. Lowery’s death about “Trust and Credibility.” Well, some may need to be reminded that trust and credibility is a two-way street. Faith, and support are the cornerstones of any successful relationship.
If an officer is found to have done something wrong, no one is more hurt and disgusted than the men and women of this great profession who honor their calling every day, with pride and dignity. But having faith and belief in the people charged with fighting the tough fight everyday seems to be a luxury these days rather than a commodity.
There is an old adage in policing and management called, “facts before acts.” Due process and the presumption of innocence are the fundamental right of every citizen. Those rights, the bedrock of our freedom and democracy apply to police officers as well. Just in case anyone forgot we, the police, are citizens too.
Written by Mason J. Maher, president, Superior Officers’ Association, Local 1; Alex Cruz, president, Policemen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) Local 1.