Governor Murphy is “deeply disturbed” over cop reaction during Bridgewater Mall incident

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TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy today said he is deeply disturbed over a police-involved incident at the Bridgewater Mall that appears to show responding officers making an on the scene determination that a black teenager was the aggressor in a fight between two teens when the video was released later shows he was not.

The black teenager who was assaulted was thrown to the ground and handcuffed by responding officers while the white teen who instigated the fight was left alone.

“On the Bridgewater Mall, I said something to the effect – although the investigation is still gathering facts – that I am – and I want to reiterate I’m deeply disturbed by what appears to be a racially disparate treatment in the video and I know Pat would join me in saying that we underscore with emphasis committed to increasing the trust of law enforcement on the one hand and the communities they serve on the other,” Governor Murphy said. “I’d go further to say that’s been a hallmark of our administration from day one, to deepen that trust, to walk in the other guy’s shoes. Pat has led by example. The attorneys general that have led, beginning with Gurbir Grewal through Andrew Bruck and now Matt Platkin, all believed that deeply in their bones. I think we made an enormous amount of progress. We talked about the pride that we had post the murder of George Floyd.”

Murphy said New Jersey has made it through some tough racial times, including the 2020 George Floyd riots and protests and thinks this incident will not harm the great relationships fostered by New Jersey Police Departments and communities of color.

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“We had thousands of demonstrations and very, very few incidents. I think that’s overwhelmingly due – even though there was enormous rightful anger and passion, folks had gotten a sense of a rhythm with each other. 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 led by great leaders like Pat that our work is not done and we need to continue that,” Murpy said.

A fight that broke out inside the Bridgewater Mall between two hot-headed teens, equally responsible for the fight ended with one of the teens thrown to the floor and handcuffed while the other was able to sit in a chair and watch. It turns out the black teenager was the one being cuffed while the white teenager was treated much differently. Now, the incident is being used to show the difference in treatment by the two teens based on their race.

Both teens were equally responsible for the altercation after a heated argument led to blows, initiated by the white teenager. The white teenager threw the first punch and held a clear advantage during the fight, pummeling the black teen and holding the high ground.

“It’s because he’s black,” one witness said off-camera.

To ensure transparency, the Bridgewater Police have asked the Somerset County Prosecutor to handle the internal affairs investigation, and I have full confidence in their ability to find the answers and bring them to the public. The matter is now being investigated by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office of Internal Affairs.

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Somerset County Commissioner Director Shanel Y. Robinson said she was appalled by the incident.

“As the first African American to serve as the Commissioner Director of Somerset County, I am heartbroken by the video that shows an African American teenager being handcuffed by police while the other teenager in the altercation is being treated as the victim,” Robinson said. “I spoke with Governor Murphy and Attorney General Platkin today, and we all agree that the video of the incident at the Bridgewater Mall is upsetting and that there must be a full investigation to uncover all the facts and deliver accountability. As a mother and grandmother, watching incidents like this over the past few years has been particularly difficult. Having this happen in my own community where I raised my family makes it even worse, and my heart goes out to the young people who were involved, and to everyone who has been disturbed by this video.”

“I have reached out to both families to discuss the incident, and I am hoping to meet with them in the coming days,” Robinson said. “I will also be reaching out to Bridgewater Mayor Moench to discuss how we can work together to restore the trust between law enforcement and the people they serve. We as a community are being challenged, but I am convinced that we will rise to the challenge together.”

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