NEW JERSEY (PIX11) — It’s a scene repeated across the country: Teens fighting in a mall; in this case, last weekend at Bridgewater Commons in Somerset County, New Jersey.
But what makes this scuffle stand out is how the two responding police officers broke up the fight. Their responses are raising concerns of racial bias in policing.
It took the Bridgewater police officers almost 20 seconds to get to the location and head toward the two fighting teens — one of them Black and the other one a white-passing Latino. By the time officers arrived, the boys were already full-on fighting on the ground — with the Latino teen on top of the Black teen.
Then, both officers forcibly yank the Latino teen away, as the boys are still fighting. What happened next is what’s creating a stir: the female officer sits the Latino teen down on a couch, while her male partner immediately tackles the Black teen, who was already on his back, before handcuffing him.
The female officer then walks away from the teen on the couch — who was not cuffed — to assist her partner. In doing so, she appears to put her knee over the Black teen’s neck.
“I knew it was wrong, and I knew there was gonna be problems when they did that,” 15-year-old Joey, who was involved in the fight, said. “They didn’t go for me.”
Tuesday night, he told PIX11 News — with his mother’s permission — that he couldn’t believe he wasn’t also placed in cuffs.
“I didn’t understand why,” the teen said. “I even offered to get handcuffed as well.”
Joey’s friend, Sienna Freidinger, filmed the video. She said the officers’ responses weren’t “fair.”
“The Black kid was the only one who was getting tackled,” she said.
Sienna’s mother, Alicia, was also “horrified” by the video her daughter recorded.
“I couldn’t believe that a mall fight turned into something like this,” she said. “I couldn’t believe that both of the police officers were on that young man — that Black young man — and nothing was done with [Joey].”