A viral video of the arrest of a Black teen at the Bridgewater Commons Mall is sparking outrage over allegations of racism.
The video shot over the weekend shows a confrontation between a Black teen and white teen before the two begin fighting. Officers quickly two white Bridgewater police officer arrive on the scene and immediately pin the Black teen down and put him in handcuffs while the white teen sits on couch.
Officers take away the Black teen while officers ignore the white teen. One observer in the video can be heard saying, “It’s because he’s Black.”
Organizations including the NAACP and the United Black Agenda say the video is blatant example of how law enforcement treat Black people differently.
“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 Richard T. Smith, president of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference. “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.”
In a joint statement, several groups in the United Black Agenda say the officers exhibited discriminatory treatment and should be disciplined.
“Our criminal justice system cries out for meaningful reform. Indeed, a Black youth in New Jersey is almost 18 times more likely to be locked up than their white counterpart – the highest racial disparity rate in the country,” the statement said. How did we get here? It starts with the racist stereotype of Black youth as ‘super predators,’ with research showing that Black boys and girls are seen as less innocent and more mature than their white peers.”
Speaking at a press conference, Gov. Phil Murphy said the video stokes distrust of police.
“I’m deeply disturbed by what appears to be racially disparate treatment in the video,” he said. “We have to let the investigation play out. The appearance of what is racially disparate treatment is deeply, deeply disturbing, and it’s just another reminder that the progress we’ve made on the relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve…shows that our work is not done and we need to continue that.”
In a statement posted on social media, the Bridgewater Police Department said they are investigating the officers’ actions on the video.
“We recognize that this video has made members of our community upset and are calling for an internal affairs investigation,” the department said. “The officers were able to respond quickly to this incident and stop it from escalating because of a tip we received from the community. We have requested that the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office assist us in this matter and are requesting patience as we strictly adhere to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Internal Affairs Directive.”