Gov. Murphy questions N.J. cops’ seizure of bicycles, arrest of teen | #socialmedia | #children


Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday said he’s “glad” the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating Perth Amboy police’s seizure of four teenagers’ bikes and the handcuffing of one Black teenager.

The governor went as far to suggest it wasn’t a good use of officers’ time to stop a group of primarily Black and Latino teenagers riding their bicycles through the city, confiscate some bikes and detain one of the teens.

“I don’t want to speak for law enforcement … (but) there are certain things that should be high priorities and kids with bikes, to me, other than making sure they’re safe, I’m not sure that taking the bikes and taking them off the street is what we should be doing,” Murphy said when asked about the incident during his latest COVID-19 briefing.

The prosecutor’s office announced it would review the matter after a video circulated on social media of the teens riding their bikes and the interaction with police.

“I don’t think that anybody who looked at that has liked the sense it has given off. Period,” Murphy said, referring to the video. “I’m glad that the Middlesex County prosector is looking at it.”

On Tuesday night, Mayor Helmin J. Caba posted a statement providing more details about the April 17 incident on the Perth Amboy Facebook page, saying he had requested a full review.

According to Caba, the teen was taken into custody for disorderly conduct.

“I ran for mayor pledging to instill better communication between our police department and our community,” Caba said in the statement. “Moving forward, we will be more engaged with the bicycling community to offer safety tips and the rules of the road.”

Portions of the video were posted on several social media channels including YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. The videos show a group of teenagers riding BMX-style bicycles through the streets of Perth Amboy, at a few points weaving into the wrong side of the road and riding against traffic. Throughout the more than 17-minute edited version of the video shared on Youtube, the teenagers are seen popping wheelies with their bikes as they ride through Perth Amboy’s streets.

The group of cyclists grew to more than a dozen, but the group split up after police cars began trying to stop the bikes, which ultimately led to one of the riders being handcuffed and his bike seized.

According to Caba’s statement, the stop was the result of several calls to the police for the large group of cyclists riding unsafely, forcing drivers to swerve as the group passed them in the streets.

At one point in the video, several Perth Amboy police cars are seen tailing the group of teens, before the group rides into a park. Later in the video, an officer orders the group to stop over a speaker and the group obliges on an unidentified street.

One officer, whom Caba identified as an auxiliary police supervisor, gets out and talks to the group of four to six cyclists — most of them Black or Latino — alleging that a group of cyclists were creating a disturbance in traffic for drivers who couldn’t get around the large group.

“You guys are supposed to have licenses and all that kind of stuff,” the officer is heard telling the group. “Guys, we don’t make the rules. You guys know when there’s 30 or 40 of you together, it creates a problem for people driving.”

Several times, the auxiliary police supervisor tells the group the police would not be taking their bikes, but that the group would eventually need to get licenses for their bicycles. License tags are required for bicycles, according to the Perth Amboy municipal ordinance.

In his statement, Caba praised the first officer’s handling of the situation.

“His actions were commendable and de-escalated any tensions that existed during the traffic stop,” Caba said in the statement.

Shortly after, the video cuts to another officer reaching for the handlebars of two of the teens’ bikes, before ordering that other officers confiscate the teens’ bikes.

“Take their bikes,” the officer, who is identified as a sergeant, is heard saying.

One teenager refuses to give the officers his bike, arguing with the sergeant. The sergeant threatens the teen with arrest if he does not get off and hand over his bike, then he is handcuffed and put in a patrol car moments later, according to the video.

The auxiliary police supervisor and his team were unaware of a previous warning the sergeant gave the group of teens, Caba said in the statement.

It is unclear if charges were ultimately filed against the teenager who was handcuffed. According to Caba, the teenager was taken into custody for disorderly conduct before being released to a guardian, along with his bike.

In the video, the teenager says repeatedly that he is not from Perth Amboy, but from Edison, where license tags are required, according to the municipal code.

The prosecutor’s office was reviewing the video and the circumstances of the stop with Perth Amboy Police Chief Roman McKeon and other Perth Amboy police officials, officials said in a statement.

“Every juvenile being taken into custody by law enforcement in Middlesex County is of the utmost concern to Prosecutor (Yolanda) Ciccone and this young person is no different,” Ciccone said in a statement. “What occurred before, during and after the incident depicted is under review.”

Multiple calls and emails to Perth Amboy police and McKeon’s office were not returned. Messages to the person who posted the original video — and is seen riding his bike as part of the group — were not immediately returned.

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Matt Arco may be reached at marco@njadvancemedia.com.

Rodrigo Torrejon may be reached at rtorrejon@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @rodrigotorrejon.





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