NJ officers who took bikes from youths in viral video acted lawfully, prosecutor says

New Jersey
Screenshots from a viral video of police in Perth Amboy, New Jersey confiscating a bicycle from a Black young person before putting the boy in handcuffs.

Screenshots from a viral video of police in Perth Amboy, New Jersey confiscating a bicycle from a Black young person before putting the boy in handcuffs. (@blazedzero on Instagram)

PERTH AMBOY, N.J. — Police in New Jersey who cuffed a young Black person and confiscated his and others’ bicycles last spring, sparking accusations of racial profiling and excessive force, acted lawfully and within police procedures, the county prosecutor said on Friday.

Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone was tasked with investigating the April 17 incident, video of which went viral on social media and drew angry comments about the officers’ actions.

Amol Sinha, the executive director of the ACLU New Jersey, questioned the officers’ motives.

“This is Perth Amboy, NJ,” Sinha wrote on Twitter back in April. “Are the police really arresting kids over bike registrations? Does it really require this many officers to address whatever situation this is? Police CANNOT continue to be our response to EVERYTHING.”

However, another video filmed by the same person showed a widely different scene, with the group of youths at times weaving in and out of traffic on their bikes and seeking to evade police vehicles.

During Ciccone’s investigation of the incident, a pattern was established involving youth riding bicycles “in an unsafe manner on the city streets,” the prosecutor said.

A total of 33 complaints were made regarding teens riding bikes in the street and weaving between traffic from June 2020 through April 2021, according to Ciccone.

During the April 17 incident that was captured on video, Ciccone said the youth who was arrested was taken into custody after he disregarded officers’ warnings to stop riding his bike in an unsafe manner.

Police were called to the scene after a woman reported “a whole gang of boys riding bicycles by the hospital and they’re taking up the whole street,” according to Ciccone. The woman told police there were at least 50 teens on bikes in the middle of New Brunswick Avenue and not allowing cars to pass.

Ciccone said the officers had dealt with the same group earlier in the day and had repeatedly told them to stop blocking traffic and ride safely on the street.

“The police response on the day in question was the culmination of an effort by members of law enforcement to deescalate the situation and issue verbal warnings to the youth involved. Those efforts were unsuccessful, and, without viable alternatives, a decision was made to enforce the city ordinance to ensure the safety of the juvenile bicyclists and the citizens of the City of Perth Amboy,” Ciccone said.

Additionally, the investigation did not reveal any indication that the incident was racially motivated.

To read the results of the prosecutor’s investigation, click here.

This story comprises reporting from PIX11’s Aliza Chasan, Rebecca Solomon, and The Associated Press.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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