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CITY PAYS THOUSANDS IN OVERTIME TO CONTROL PROTEST MOBS AFTER SUSPICIOUS DEATH

The city paid a total of $89,000 in overtime to police officers deployed during five protests last month over the controversial and still-unexplained death of Jameek Lowery, public records show.

The rallies mostly took place outside City Hall, with marches through Paterson’s downtown occurring on some nights, and one rally was held at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, where Lowery died.

On Jan. 8, the first night of protests and the day after Lowery’s death, Paterson paid a total of $22,600 in overtime to 37 officers, according to documents released by the city on Thursday. Law enforcement officials say protesters threw rocks and debris during the rally that night, while activists accused cops of using chemical spray against them.

The city paid another $9,425 in overtime to 26 officers on Jan. 9, $21,300 to 46 cops on Jan. 11, $21,500 to 52 officers on Jan. 12, and $13,125 to 24 officers on Jan. 15, the records show.

Mayor Andre Sayegh did not respond to a message seeking his comments on the protest overtime spending. Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale said the city tried to strike a “difficult balance” between deploying enough officers to make sure that order was maintained and not making an excessive show of force.

“The first night could have been a volatile situation,” Speziale said. “After that, when things became more peaceful, we didn’t ramp it up as much.”

Lowery died on Jan 7, after recording a frantic video at police headquarters on Facebook Live during which he asserted police officers wanted to kill him. Before filming the video, Lowery had called 911 asking for an ambulance, saying he took too much ecstasy and was paranoid, according to recordings of emergency phone calls released by the city.

Lowery’s family members have asserted that he was beaten to death by police, but the Prosecutor’s Office has said hospital records did not contain any indication he suffered trauma. Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes has not yet released the autopsy results.

Corey Teague, one of the leaders of the protests, called the overtime spending “a waste of money.”

“We weren’t out there to wreak havoc,” Teague said. “But the police used this as an opportunity to cash in. This money would have been better spent investigating what happened to Jameek.”

Councilman Michael Jackson called the overtime spending “irresponsible and disrespectful.”

“The family never showed any sign of being disorderly or disrespectful,” Jackson said. “Are we afraid of our own people?”

Councilman Luis Velez called the $89,000 tab “outrageous.”

“I think the number of officers should have been more manageable,” Velez said.

Councilman Flavio Rivera said he would ask the Police Department to explain the strategy that resulted in the number of officers deployed during the protests.

“It wouldn’t be fair for me to comment until I have more information,” Rivera said.

City records show that total overtime spending by the Paterson Police Department from July 1 through Jan. 11 was $1.29 million.

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