SOMERSET COUNTY, N.J. - Authorities in New Jersey are investigating what the governor called a "racially disparate" response by police to a fight between two teens at a mall in Bridgewater Township over the weekend.
Video captured and shared by Sienna Freidinger shows two teens arguing and then physically fighting at the Bridgewater Commons Mall on Saturday, Feb. 12. One teen appears to be Black and the other appears to be white.
Two officers arrive and break up the fight just as the light-skinned teen grabs at the Black teen, who is on the ground, the video shows. The officers pull the white teen off the Black teen and then one cop, a man, tackles the Black teen, pins him face down, and puts his hands behind his back. The other officer, a woman, simply sits the white teen on a couch, the video shows. Then she joins her partner to help handcuff the Black teen while the other boy, unrestrained, watches from the couch.
At his pandemic briefing on Wednesday, the governor said an investigation is still gathering facts.
"I'm deeply disturbed by what appears to be a racially disparate treatment in the video," Murphy said. "We're committed to increasing the trust between law enforcement on the one hand and the communities they serve on the other hand."
In a Facebook post, the Bridgewater Township Police said the department has asked the county prosecutor to help investigate.
"We recognize that this video has made members of our community upset and are calling for an internal affairs investigation," police said and asked for patience while the probe plays out.
In a statement to FOX 5 NY, the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office said its Internal Affairs Unit is investigating.
"The Somerset County Prosecutor's Office requests 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," Deputy Chief Frank Roman Jr. said in the statement. "The STOPit app allows citizens to provide anonymous reports including videos and photos."
The governor said he believes his administration has worked to deepen the trust between police and New Jerseyans.
"I think we made an enormous amount of progress — we talked about the pride that we had post the murder of George Floyd, 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," Murphy 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 was made on the relationships between law enforcement of the communities they serve — led by great leaders like Pat [Callahan of the New Jersey State Police] — that our work is not done and we need to continue that."