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Jameek Lowery, a 27-year-old Black man, died after being restrained and punched by police officers during a mental health crisis in Paterson, New Jersey in January 2019. Lowery’s case is one of more than 330 similar deaths of Black individuals after police interactions, despite representing just 12% of the population. The investigation into police-involved deaths in the past decade by The Associated Press, FRONTLINE, and the Howard Centers for Investigative Journalism highlights the discrimination faced by Black individuals in the criminal justice system, including unjustified stops, arrests, use of force, and incarceration.

In Paterson, a city with a troubled history of racial tensions between Black residents and the predominantly white police force, Lowery’s death further strained the already deteriorating relationship between the community and law enforcement. The incident sparked protests and calls for justice, with activists and family members believing that police used excessive force due to Lowery’s race. Despite initial efforts to discredit claims of excessive force, a detailed expert report revealed that Lowery’s death was not accidental, but a homicide resulting from cardiac arrest and kidney failure due to restraint and beatings by police officers.

The response to Lowery’s death prompted an outside audit of the Paterson Police Department, which revealed high rates of use-of-force incidents involving Black residents. The audit recommended updating use-of-force policies and improving oversight of officers, but many community members and advocates were skeptical of the police department’s ability to reform itself. Following another fatal police shooting, the New Jersey Attorney General took the extraordinary step of taking control of the Paterson police force, citing long-standing complaints of police discrimination from communities of color.

Lowery’s family and friends continue to seek answers and justice for his death, as his case represents a larger issue of racial disparities in policing and use of force incidents across the country. Despite calls for reform and increased oversight, advocates remain doubtful that meaningful change will occur without dismantling systemic issues within law enforcement agencies. As the investigation into police-involved deaths continues, the focus remains on holding officers accountable, addressing racial bias, and working towards a more just and equitable criminal justice system.

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