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Feb 19, 2001

Two teens were fighting in a N.J. mall. One of them is Black. Guess which one got arrested?

Garin Flowers

Two police officers in Bridgewater Township, N.J., are being investigated internally after they arrested a Black teenager and not his lighter-skinned counterpart after they broke up a fight between the two at Bridgewater Commons Mall on Saturday.
Video captured of the incident shows the two male teens face to face intensely exchanging words and then throwing punches.

Less than 20 seconds in, law enforcement jumped into action and stopped the brawl. Officers were in the area thanks to a community tip, according to the Bridgewater Police Department.
An independent law enforcement expert interviewed by Yahoo News noted that the information contained in the tip may have played a role in the officers’ actions, but a legal expert disagreed and criticized what appears to be bias caught on camera.
The footage shows a female officer grab one teen, while a male officer tackles and handcuffs the Black teen. The female officer sits the white-passing teen down on the couch and then turns to help her partner arrest the Black teen, who has been identified as 14-year-old Kye, according to media reports.
The names of the officers have not been released, and both appear to be white.
Speaking to New York City-based WPIX, the other boy involved, 15-year-old Joey, who identified himself as Latino, told the outlet he was confused about why he wasn’t also detained.
“I knew it was wrong, and I knew there was gonna be problems when they did that,” Joey told the outlet. “They didn’t go for me.”
“I didn’t understand why,” he added. “I even offered to get handcuffed as well.” The cellphone video shows him clenching his wrists together at one point.
Other teens at the scene showed confusion, while one person in the background on video is heard saying, “It’s 'cause he’s Black. Racially motivated.”
The Bridgewater Police Department has now called for an internal affairs investigation with assistance from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office.
Law enforcement expert Thor Eells, who is not involved with the case, told Yahoo News it’s too early to tell if police procedures were improperly followed. Eells, a retired commander from the Colorado Springs, Colo., Police Department and current executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, said investigators will gather as much information as they can regarding the “totality of information that the officers had.”
“I think one of the telling bits of information that I saw is the statement by the agency that their ability to intervene so quickly was a result of a tip — community tip,” Eells said. “So, I think, what is lost or not captured [in the video]? What was the information that they had prior to their intervening in the actual physical altercation?”
Kye and his mother, Eboné, have also spoken to local media outlets. The teen told NBC New York that the argument started when he decided to stand up to the other boy for picking on his friend.
Once he is on the ground, the video shows both officers kneeling on his back as they put him in handcuffs.

Protesters march in Bridgewater, N.J., against police brutality and racism following the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)
© Provided by Yahoo! NewsProtesters march in Bridgewater, N.J., against police brutality and racism following the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)
“I was, like, calm, because I knew not to be scared, just stay calm and not move and do what they tell me to do,” Kye said.
His mother said she was more concerned with how officers handled him than about racial profiling.
“I’m not going to point fingers at race. I just know that the cops handled my son in a way that I don’t agree with,” Eboné told NJ Advance Media.
“My focus is not on the racial aspect. It’s more on I don’t like the fact that the cops handled my son like that and the other boy was not touched. I don’t like what happened, but I’m not going to be the one to say that it was racially motivated.”
The New Jersey NAACP posted a statement on Facebook calling for the officers to be fired.
“The NAACP New Jersey State Conference calls for these Bridgewater Police Department officers to be immediately removed from the police force pending an investigation. The time for the #nj Governor and Attorney General to put a stop to this type of behavior by the police is NOW.”
David Ring, a prominent personal-injury attorney in L.A., saw the video and believes the officers could have handled the situation better, regardless of the tip.
“They don’t even separate, to where one cop pulls, detains the white kid, the other detains the Black kid and they actually ask questions to find out what truly happened,” Ring told Yahoo News. “What do they do? They rush in, take the Black kid down and put cuffs on him. That is blatant racial discrimination by the police, and so if I’m the Black kid and his family, I’m filing a lawsuit against the police for racial discrimination for unlawful arrest and for civil rights violations.”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy acknowledged that the investigation needs to play out, but tweeted that he does think race might have played a role.

A statement from the Bridgewater Police Department posted to Facebook requests assistance from the public with the ongoing investigation:


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