Perth Amboy cops confiscate bicycles — over lack of license?
A video showing Perth Amboy police confiscating bicycles from a group of teens went viral on Tuesday, drawing attention of critics of over-policing because the video appears to show officers using the lack of a bicycle license as part of the reason for their action.
"I told you guys you're supposed to have a license," an officer is heard saying. Several other officers and six police vehicles are seen in the video.
The video also drew a comment from the president of the New Jersey ACLU, who told New Jersey 101.5 that it "calls into question whether we need to be making arrests for safety concerns like this one."
And the incident is now under review by Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone’s office, which appears to have learned about it from the ACLU’s post on Twitter.
“Every juvenile being taken into custody by law enforcement in Middlesex County is of the utmost concern to Prosecutor Ciccone and this young person is no different,” her office said in a written statement Tuesday afternoon. “What occurred before, during and after the incident depicted is under review.”
Perth Amboy police did not immediately return New Jersey 101.5's request for more information on Tuesday morning.
The video, which has received 2 million views on Twitter, opens with several police officers talking with a group of teens about riding bicycles on the street.
The video makes a quick cut to a blue bicycle being taken by an officer and then another showing the teen in an orange hoodie with his hands behind his back being cuffed.
"What the f**k? We live way in Edison. We live way in Edison," he tells police as they walk him to a patrol car. "What the f**k are you f**kers doing?"
In response to the first videos, ACLU of New Jersey president Amol Sinha noted that minor police interactions "can escalate and lead to tragic outcomes particularly for Black and brown people in our country."
"We should be questioning and scrutinizing whether or not we are deploying police resources in the right ways because what we don’t want to see is for police interaction to lead to a tragedy," he said. "An arrest alone is traumatizing for a child or a young person or anybody. That is the conversation we should be having too.”
Perth Amboy has a local law requiring bicycles to be registered and to display a tag.
In a second video, which has only 135,000 views, an officer explains that the bike was confiscated over safety concerns but mentions the city's bike registration law. She tells the owner of the blue bike that the group was told to stay on the sidewalk — although it is not clear from the footage whether she meant for them to ride on the sidewalk, which in many municipalities is against the law.
"You guys know that you were going against traffic. It is for your safety," the officer tells the teen. "You think I want to be here taking bikes away? This is so assinine. We have so much better stuff to do with our time. We really don't want to be here. We stopped another group doing the same thing. We can't do this all summer."
"And technically if I wanted to be an a***hole, is your bike registered with us?" she continues. "I don't have to give it back to you. Do you have the receipt to prove the bike is your bike? I'm not going to do that because that's not the point of this. The whole point of this is, I don't want to call parents and say 'dude got hit by a car."
The officer says the department wants to see kids riding bikes but on the correct side of the road. But the video cuts to a shot of several teens riding as a group on the correct — right — side of the street.
The state Department of Transportation's website says bicycle riders are encouraged to "'take the lane', i.e., position themselves at or near the center of the lane" when there is no shoulder. The DOT also allows bicycles to ride on the left side of a lane near the center of the road, especially if they need to make a left turn.
The video shows the teen in the orange hoodie being released from custody at police headquarters and both teens getting back their bikes.
"I'm going to stop riding in Amboy because it's such a d***head burg," the owner of the blue bike says.