BRIDGEWATER, NJ — Outrage from the community continues to grow with Gov. Phil Murphy now speaking out over how Bridgewater Police handled a teen mall fight (see the video of the fight and arrest below).
“Although an investigation is still gathering the facts about this incident, I’m deeply disturbed by what appears to be racially disparate treatment in this video. We’re committed to increasing trust between law enforcement and the people they serve,” Murphy said on Tuesday.
A video began circulating on Sunday showing the fight between a white teen and a Black teen at the Bridgewater Commons mall. The video also shows township police officers kneeling on and handcuffing the Black teen while the white teen is left sitting on a couch. Read More: Cops Criticized After Stopping Teen Fight At Bridgewater Mall
Story continues below video:
This response has prompted outrage in the community.
The New Jersey chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a civil rights organization, also weighed in on the incident on Wednesday.
“The NAACP -NJ State Conference was disappointed today to see still another police action
irrefutably showing the disparate treatment of African-Americans in our police institutions.
Despite years of talk about bias training and accountability, the video of what happened today
in Bridgewater cannot be denied. When Bridgewater police found two youths fighting, the
immediate reaction was to aggressively throw the black child to the ground, knee placed
around the neck area and cuffed behind the back,” said the organization in a statement.
“At the same time, the white youth, at least equally at fault for the fight as his black counterpart, was carefully eased onto a couch and treated like a victim. This is something African-Americans in New Jersey experience too often,” said the organization.
The NAACP-NJ State Conference is now calling for the Bridgewater officers involved to be immediately removed from the police force pending an investigation.
“The time for the Governor and Attorney General to put a stop to this type of behavior by the
police is NOW,” said the organization.
The Bridgewater Police Department released a statement on Mondaywhich included requesting the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office to help in an internal affairs investigation that will strictly adhere to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Internal Affairs Directive (njoag.gov/iapp).
“We recognize that this video has made members of our community upset and are calling for an internal affairs investigation. The officers were able to respond quickly to this incident and stop it from escalating because of a tip we received from the community,” said the department.
Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Spokesman Frank Roman said his office was notified of the “incident at the Bridgewater Commons Mall involving a physical altercation between two juvenile males and response from Bridgewater Township Police Officers.”
“The matter has been referred to the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Internal Affairs Unit who is investigating the incident in accordance with New Jersey Attorney General Guidelines and Directives,” said Roman.
The prosecutor’s office is requesting that anyone who was present at the time of the altercation and may have recorded any portion of the event to contact the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Internal Affairs Unit at 908-575-3300 or via the STOPit app. All anonymous STOPit reports will be kept confidential.
“No further comment can be released at this time as the matter is under investigation,” said Roman.
Bridgewater Township Mayor Matthew Moench also released a statement on Tuesday regarding the video.
“It is not appropriate for me or any other Township official to comment any further on the details of this incident while an investigation is ongoing, except to say that I am completely confident that the Prosecutor’s review will be impartial, objective and thorough,” said Moench.
He went on to “thank the public for its patience in refraining from jumping to conclusions while an investigation is pending.”
“I also want to thank the brave men and women of the Bridgewater Police Department for their continued service, and for keeping our public safe in today’s challenging environment,” said Moench.
Both the mayor’s and police department’s public statements have garnered over 1,500 comments in total on Facebook.
See Mayor Moench’s full letter below:
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism