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Governor Murphy Signs “Seabrooks-Washington Community-Led Crisis Response Act”

January 12, 2024


For Immediate Release


Contact: Racquel Romans-Henry, Policy Director | racquel@sandsj.org 



TRENTON, NJ --- In a victory for racial justice and public health, today Governor Murphy signed S4250/A5326, the “Seabrooks-Washington Community-Led Crisis Response Act", which would establish community-led crisis response teams as an alternative to police for nonviolent, substance use, mental and behavioral health calls.


Racquel Romans-Henry, Policy Director of Salvation and Social Justice said the following in response to the signing: 


“The signing of the ‘Seabrooks-Washington Community-Led Crisis Response Act’ into law is a collective win for advocates, directly impacted communities and people of conscience throughout this state.  


New Jersey still exists as one of the most inequitable states in the nation, disproportionately subjecting Black residents to structurally racist systems and policies. Statewide, Black residents are three times more likely to face police force than white residents. Depending on where you are in the state, that likelihood increases exponentially. Data shows that in Lakewood, A Black person is 22 times more likely to face police force than their white counterparts. These disparities fueled by structurally racist systems and policies are the very reason SandSJ exists.

 

The signing of this groundbreaking legislation represents a full circle moment as well as a reminder to all of what is possible when our collective vision meets an unyielding commitment to collective work. This bill was birthed from the indescribable pain and trauma experienced by families and communities across this state. These communities took their outrage, loss and grief and constructed a model of public health and public safety response that will not only save lives but honor the lives needlessly lost up until this point. 


The evidence is clear that Black communities across this country (in contrast to many white communities) live in legitimate fear of experiencing harm by the police. Those fears are substantiated by the fact that Black people are killed by police at significantly higher rates than any other racial group nationwide. The 'Seabrooks-Washington Act' will not only help to support the work of community-led crisis response teams, thereby reducing the likelihood of harm of Black communities by police here in New Jersey but will also serve as a national model for community-controlled public safety nationwide. 


Salvation and Social Justice extends our appreciation and immense gratitude to Governor Murphy for signing this significant legislation into law; Senate President Scutari and the Assembly Speaker Coughlin; the bill sponsors, Assemblyman Spearman, Assemblywoman Sumter, Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson, Assemblyman Wimberly, Assemblywoman McKnight, Assemblywoman Carter and Senators Beach, Ruiz and Turner for their leadership in championing this important legislation; community leaders and advocate partners for their unyielding support and commitment to justice and equity; and to the directly impacted families who despite unspeakable loss displayed the courage to stand for communities throughout.” 



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“The Seabrooks family believes the Seabrooks-Washington Community Led Crisis Response Act is a great first step for the State to start solving the problem it created of preventable police violence in New Jersey. Every American, including those with mental health issues, deserves to be able to call 911 in an emergency without fear of violence from the very people they've called for help. Najee deserved help, not bullets.

 

It is clear from the statistics supporting the Act that police, despite their substantial financing and training, are not the appropriate responders to mental health crises. Our family looks forward to seeing the work of the Community Led Crisis Response Advisory Council in their search to find what kinds of alternatives work better for our communities, including the City of Paterson.” --- Statement from the Seabrooks family

 



"Let us empower our neighbors to be the first line of support during times of crisis, reducing our reliance on the police and ensuring that those in need receive the care and understanding they deserve" --- Denise Davis,  Aunt of Andrew Jerome Washington killed by Jersey City police during mental health crisis in August 2023




 

“This is a profound day and I am pleased that Governor Murphy will be signing Senate Bill 4250. I’m sure when implemented it will save numerous lives. My brother, Major Gulia Dale III’s death was ‘pre-vent-able.’ On July 4, 2021, he lost his life while struggling with PTSD. I know he would be proud of me for speaking up for him. I miss my only brother so much and I am glad  to have been a part of a process that could help protect those struggling with a mental health crisis.” --- Valerie Dale-Cobbertt, sister of Major Gulia Dale III, killed by Newton police during a mental health crisis on July 4, 2021




 

"I am looking forward to a shift in New Jersey policing from warrior policing  to protect and serve policing." --- Felicia Simmons of the Monmouth County chapter of the National Action Network on behalf of the family of Hasani Best killed by Asbury Park police in mental health crisis in August 2021





“In recent years, the State has acknowledged that when it comes to mental health and substance use calls, a police response can be both inappropriate and ineffective, increasing risk to the individual in need of help.  What it has not acknowledged, until NOW, is the will, ability and self-determination of communities to be stewards of our own health and overall wellness. These community led crisis response teams center the dignity and humanity of all those that come across their path. These crisis response workers don’t simply serve the community, they are OF the community, and their success is rooted in that deep connection and investment to its holistic health. There is simply no substitute for what these teams offer , and the signing of the ‘Seabrooks-Washington Community-Led Crisis Response Act’ into law is a collective win for advocates, directly impacted communities and people of conscience throughout this state. We want to extend our love and gratitude to the Seabrook and Washington family for their courage, sacrifice and support, and commend the Governor on the signing of this groundbreaking legislation.” --- Rev. Dr. Charles F. Boyer, Founder and Executive Director of Salvation and Social Justice and Senior Pastor at Greater Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church in Trenton, NJ  




 

“WE know the of historical tension that exists between Black communities and the police.  Those who live and work within these communities strongly believe that the best way to keep our communities safe is to limit the interactions between members of law enforcement and members of the community.


The passing of this historic bill would allow the community to participate and invest in its own public safety, and stand in opposition to all the forces who have consistently invested in the destruction and the Black community. The cost to invest in this bill is substantially less than what it costs to incarcerate those persons in our communities who need support and services which offer alternatives to punitive actions. It is a win all the way around.

 

I still contend that the answer to reduce violence and crime is to give those communities the resources to do so. Affluent communities are clear examples of this. The rates of crime and violence are low because the resources available to them are high.  The Seabrooks-Washington Community Led Crisis Response Act is a resource that our community desperately needs! "  --- Rev. Weldon M. McWilliams IV, PhD, Senior Pastor, Christ Temple Baptist Church, Paterson, NJ 

 



 

“ Our faith community believes that one of our central responsibilities is ‘to love our neighbor as ourselves.’” This speaks not only to our responsibility to show love to those around us but also to the fact that neighbors can love their neighbors better than anyone else.  When you are in the community and in relationship together, you can love those around you with greater precision and care than you would be able to if you were coming from outside of the community.  This bill offers an opportunity for love to flow in a life-or-death situation.  During a mental health emergency, there needs to be a lovingly calm response, instead of something punitive or corrective.  This bill is a tangible step towards more love and literally more life.” --- Rev. Timothy L. Adkins-Jones, Phd., Senior Pastor, Bethany Baptist Church, Newark, NJ




 

“The passage of this bill is a critical first step in bringing forth key tools and resources to make our communities safer. While this bill does not fill the void that is now present because of Andrew’s death, it ensures that his memory and legacy will live on. The work continues.” --- Rev. Ritney Castine, Senior Pastor, Mt. Pisgah AME Church, Jersey City, NJ







“Governor Phil Murphy’s signing of the Seabrooks-Washington Community-Led Crisis Response Act, Bill S4250, is a pivotal stride in bolstering community-led crisis response teams. By legalizing the ‘All hands-on Deck’ approach to crisis response, this bill leaves less room for failure. We wish this level of support was available to Najee, however we are heartened that this bill can prevent the next family/community from experiencing such a great loss. We express profound gratitude for this forward step, which contributes to an ecosystem of public safety centered on healing.” --- The  Paterson Healing Collective




 

“Everyone’s life is valuable and everyone deserves care and protection, especially the most vulnerable among us. Having a mental health crisis or having substance use disorder doesn’t make you any less deserving of patience and support. In those moments where individuals are most vulnerable to be harmed, they need community crisis teams to ensure they live to see another day.” --- Zellie Thomas, Black Lives Matter Paterson

 




“Communities across New Jersey have successfully launched and piloted crisis response programs that limit unnecessary-and potentially harmful and racially biased interactions-between police and civilians. The legislation signed into law today will expand support for new and existing non-carceral community-led response teams that will save lives, reduce the risk of police violence, and invest in resources and services that best support community members, rather than tear lives apart. We applaud Governor Murphy, the sponsors of this bill, and the advocates and community members who lifted their voices to create a vision for a more just New Jersey.” -- Sarah Fajardo, Policy Director, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey

 




"We are pleased that Governor Murphy is signing the Seabrooks-Washington Community Crisis Response Act into law in memory of two New Jerseyans recently killed by police during mental health crises. Through this new bill, Families in New Jersey's largest cities will soon be able receive compassionate treatment for their loved ones in distress instead of an armed response which -  all too often - results in tragedy. We look forward to building upon this important step by establishing even more community-based safety resources that can protect the most vulnerable and save lives.” --- Yannick Wood, Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice

 




"Today marks a pivotal moment for New Jersey and how we support residents during their greatest times of need. Funding new community-led alternative crisis response teams is a significant step towards a more compassionate and effective approach to public safety. This legislation demonstrates a commitment to empowering communities, fostering trust, and redefining how we respond to crises. Kudos to Governor Murphy, the bill sponsors, and the advocates who made the Seabrooks-Washington Community-Led Crisis Response Act possible.” --- Marleina Ubel, Senior Policy Analyst, New Jersey Policy Perspective 





“The new Seabrooks-Washington Law is an important first step toward responses to crisis situations that will promote healing and provide solutions that will truly build community safety. This law acknowledges that the lives of Najee Seabrooks, Andrew Washington and countless others killed by police could have been saved if handled differently. Our state is moving in a desperately needed better direction.” -- New Jersey Violence Intervention and Prevention Coalition





“This bill is an answer to how differently people with mental challenges could actually be helped and how the lives of Najee Seabrooks, Andrew Washington, Bernard Placide Jr, Major Gulia Dale and Hasani Best could have been saved.




It’s also about a needed shift in police and institutional culture to be engaged and mutually supportive of  the groundbreaking community based Violence Intervention work happening in these cities as a start, work that is greatly appreciated around the country, but sadly gets devalued by local law enforcement and state institutions at the expense of people’s lives.” ---  Zayid Muhammad, lead organizer for the Newark Communities for Accountable Policing and its statewide arm, NJ Communities for Accountable Policing





“With the Seabrooks-Washington Act, we stand firm in our commitment to nonviolence. This legislation echoes our mission as a nonviolent organization, empowering communities to intervene, prevent, and resolve conflicts peacefully. Together, we build a future where violence is replaced by understanding, compassion, and collective well-being.


In the face of adversity, the Seabrooks-Washington Act emerges as a beacon of change. Grateful for a positive shift, this legislation is our collective response to historical trauma. Thanks to its vision, we channel our energy into violence intervention and prevention, fostering a future where justice and healing prevail.” -- Pam Johnson, Anti-Violence Coalition of Hudson County

 




"The Seabrooks-Washington Community-Led Crisis Response Act is a major victory for public safety and racial justice in New Jersey. Non-police crisis response is an essential component of effective, durable public safety systems. When specially trained professionals can respond to calls for help when they're needed and provide follow-up services to those they have engaged, the whole community is safer." -- Alexander Heaton, Director of Reimagining Public Safety, NYU Policing Project

 



 

“The Office of the Public Defender applauds the passage and signing of the Seabrooks-Washington Community Led Crisis Response Act, which creates opportunities for de-escalation and community engagement as alternatives to traditional policing methods. Community-led teams focus on prevention by addressing the root cause of a crisis rather than simply reacting to it. By addressing underlying problems, we create safer and healthier communities.” -- Jennifer Sellitti, Public Defender Designate

 




"Police have many responsibilities on their shoulders," said former Commissioner with the New Jersey Police Training Commission, and LEAP speaker Jiles Ship". "This legislation will improve public safety by supporting cities to create community responder programs, which will dispatch trained experts to de-escalate low-risk 9-1-1 calls. These programs improve connections to community-based resources while allowing police to focus on serious crime." --- Jiles Ship, former Commissioner with the New Jersey Police Training Commission

 




“NCST has in essence been operating a community responder model since 2015 and supporting the start-up of other programs. We are thrilled that our organization will be able to apply for this funding to support our work.” --- Newark Community Street Team




 

"No one feels the impacts of police violence, mental health crises and racial disparities more than those in communities where these incidents occur.  Recognition of the brilliance that exists within communities, and meeting the moment with funding and training opportunities, is an important first step towards healing. The investments made in the Seabrooks-Washington Community-Led Crisis Response Act are critical steps towards holistic public safety solutions, and we thank the bill's Assembly and Senate sponsors as well as the Governor for prioritizing these solutions." -- Max Markham, Vice President for Policy & Community Engagement at the Center for Policing Equity




 

“On behalf of Seeds & Berries, community-based social worker and member of NJVIP Coalition, Alia Berry is deeply moved by the passing of S4250. The death of Najee Seabrooks, Drew Washington and all those who have died by police violence while in mental health crisis, are not in vain. For the mobilizing and organizational power of the people to compel elected officials to vote to support this work is literally lifesaving. This effort also acknowledges and validates the pain in our hearts by ensuring we support those with mental health needs using systems that are trauma informed. This is what "justice" looks like.” -- Alia Berry, MSW, LSW, Founder and Executive Director of Seeds & Berries

 

 


"We're excited to see NJ taking a step forward on community-led public safety. These programs have been demonstrated to work in our historically marginalized communities that have been subjected to the worst police abuse and police violence, addressing problems more funding for police never has. Such a clear data point for funding community over policing." -- Matt Dragon, State Committee Member of  Our Revolution NJ 




                                                                                                    

"I am excited to see lawmakers in New Jersey investing in and supporting the expansion of community responder programs in the state. This new legislation has the opportunity to create meaningful change in communities across New Jersey. Community responder programs have been shown to build community trust in our institutions and reduce strain on overworked emergency services while providing a high level of care. My hope is that new programs who take advantage of this opportunity will look to the likes of Salvation and Social Justice and other organizations who have already been doing the work to establish successful community-centered responses in their neighborhoods." -- Sarah Wurzburg, Deputy Division Director of Behavioral Health at The Council of State Governments Justice Center

 

 


"The Seabrooks-Washington Community-Led Crisis Response Act champions the critical role of community professionals, empowering them as respected frontline responders in times of crisis. The passage of this bill serves as a commitment to deliver lifesaving support that allows individuals to safely navigate mental health crises, leveraging the expertise of our community heroes. By signing S4250, Governor Murphy has helped transform a piece of legislation into a lifeline for countless individuals that prioritizes the welfare of all New Jerseyans." --- Jordan Costa, Senior Project Manager at Giffords Center for Violence Intervention

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