Police response to NJ mall teen fight gets reaction from Murphy, NAACP
BRIDGEWATER — “Disappointed” and “deeply disturbed” are the respective reactions of the New Jersey chapter of the NAACP and Gov. Phil Murphy to video of police response to a teen fight at Bridgewater Commons mall.
The Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office has taken the lead on a review of the involvement of the two officers who responded to the fight between two teens, one who appears to be white and one who appears to be Black.
In breaking up the fistfight, video widely shared to social media appears to show the Black teen tackled to the ground and his hands restrained behind his back, while the white teen is guided to a couch and briefly left unattended.
You can watch the video at this link but be warned that there is course language.
“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,” according to a written statement Tuesday evening from NAACP NJ President Richard Smith.
“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. 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 and the NAACP-NJ State Conference calls for these officers 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."
Bridgewater police have said the officers responded to a tip from the community — how the incident was reported to police has not yet been disclosed publicly.
Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted about the encounter on Tuesday evening.
“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.
In between profanities in the video, one of the teens watching can be heard saying “It’s because he’s Black — racially motivated.”
The Office of the Attorney General on Tuesday confirmed it was “aware of the incident” and has been in contact with the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office.
Anyone who was present at the time of the fight and may have recorded any part of it can contact the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Internal Affairs Unit at 908-575-3300 or via the STOPit app, which allows citizens to provide anonymous reports including videos and photos.
STOPit can be downloaded to a smartphone for free at the Google Play Store or Apple App Store, access code: SOMERSETNJ.
The Bridgewater Township Police Department addressed the incident on its Facebook page Monday and also asked for any other witnesses to submit video.
“The men and women of the Bridgewater Township Police Department are thankful for our community partners and look forward to continuing to build our positive relationships,” the department said in its previous written statement.