The Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office said on Friday Perth Amboy Police acted legally and showed no signs of racial discrimination when officers confiscated bikes from a group of largely black teenagers in April and Latinos, arresting a minor and triggering a violent reaction.
State officials have called on prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone to review the conduct of the police department after criticizing allegations of unfair treatment and bossy policing. The incident was captured in a video widely shared on social media.
In a statement, Ciccone’s office defended the officers and said the arrest and seizures took place after police tried to defuse the encounter and received several complaints from teenagers acting recklessly. The review, prosecutors said, included video footage, community complaints, police reports and interviews with officers.
“The prosecutor concludes that members of the Perth Amboy Police Department acted within their legal authority by stopping young people on bicycles for engaging in unsafe behavior which created a risk of injury to motorists, pedestrians and young people themselves, âthe prosecutor’s office said. said in a four-page statement. âThe police’s community guard role extends to protecting the well-being of children in the community. “
âIn this case, members of the Perth Amboy law enforcement community had a duty to act immediately to prevent harm to the young people involved as well as to members of the community. There is no indication or suggestion that the incident was racially motivated or that state law or local ordinances were selectively applied in a discriminatory manner, âthe prosecutor’s review revealed.
According to the county review, there was “no indication or suggestion” that the police used excessive force.
“The officers’ actions were, at all times, within their legal authority, involved the enforcement of local ordinances and complied with established police procedures,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Video evidence showed reckless behavior involving bicycles, according to the prosecutor’s office, which said Perth Amboy police had already received 33 calls regarding groups of young people “cycling dangerously on the city streets. Â», From June 6 to April 20.
“In fact, the videos reviewed described a recurring pattern of reckless cycling behavior and evasive interaction with law enforcement attempting to enforce the law,” Ciccone’s office said.
“In addition, the law enforcement officers involved exercised great restraint in not issuing summons for violations of state law and / or any local ordinance on the day in question,” according to the report. the press release from the prosecutor’s office.
It was not clear if the same teens were responsible for every complaint. The prosecutor’s office said that with 14 responses from the police, the runners were gone. In 13 other incidents, police found a group of cyclists and “appropriately warned them”.
In six other reports, there was “an intensification of police action in response,” the prosecutor’s office said.
In the April 17 incident shown on video, police responded to a call at around 2:25 p.m. and arrested a minor for a petty disturbance offense after issuing a warning to stop dangerous cycling and advance warnings. , according to the prosecutor’s review.
A woman called the police to report “a whole bunch of boys riding bicycles near the hospital and they occupy the whole street,” the prosecutor’s office said.
She further told police that there were at least 50 motorcyclists in the middle of the street and causing traffic to slow down on New Brunswick Avenue, the statement said.
The prosecutor’s office found that officers had already warned the same group earlier today of the dangerous driving and traffic blockage.
âThey were also warned of the consequences of continuing to use their bikes the same way. The warnings were issued by law enforcement to prevent anyone from getting hurt or a car accident from happening. The miners ignored the warnings, their reckless behavior continued and their conduct did not subside, âthe office said.
âThe police response on the day in question was the culmination of an effort by law enforcement officials to defuse the situation and issue verbal warnings to the youths involved. These efforts were unsuccessful and, without viable alternatives, a decision was taken to enforce the city ordinance to ensure the safety of young cyclists and citizens of the city of Perth Amboy, âthe statement added.
The prosecutor’s office revealed that one of the minors involved in the group with a relative went to police headquarters days after the arrest to apologize to a police supervisor.
“The miner told law enforcement that he and his friends were wrong and that the sergeant was doing his job,” according to the review.
In an interview with investigators in May, the parent of an arrested teenager also expressed support for the way the situation was handled by officers, the statement said.
“The parent of the minor was happy that the situation did not deteriorate and indicated that the police took the bikes following the actions of her child,” added the prosecutor’s office.
Authorities have also issued a Job Adjustment to This Teenager, which is a program that removes minor juvenile offenses from the formal system and rejects them if the youngster meets certain conditions.
“In conclusion, while it is true that police intervention is not warranted to deal with the daily misconduct perpetrated by minors and other societal issues, a response to the conduct adopted by young people in this case was necessary and should have taken place. Therefore, the actions of the Perth Amboy Police Department were justified in the circumstances presented. The officers would have failed in their duties if they had acted otherwise, âconcluded the prosecutor’s examination.
None of the minors involved have been publicly identified because of their age.
Video of the incident showed the teens cycling through the city streets, antics and ultimately a police response. As footage continues, an officer told the group to stop on a loudspeaker and the group pulled into an unidentified street.
An officer explains to the teens that they were creating a disruption and blocking traffic before informing them of a city ordinance that requires permits for bicycles.
“You’re supposed to have licenses and all that stuff,” the officer is heard telling the group. âGuys, we don’t make the rules. You know when you’re 30 or 40 together it creates a problem for the drivers, âthe officer said in the clip.
âWe want you to have fun, we want you to ride a bike, nobody wants to take your bikes,â said the same town officer, who wears a uniform white shirt, usually a sign of lieutenant rank or above.
âListen, be careful,â he told the group. “I just want to give you guys a warning.”
After a short back and forth, some of the teens clapped for the white shirted officer as he left.
âThat’s the way you have to run business here,â one teenager said in the clip. “Applaud him for him.”
But the scene becomes confrontational in another clip when a sergeant orders officers to take the bikes and a teenager is handcuffed.
Cycling rules vary in New Jersey communities, where at least two other cities require licenses.
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Noah Cohen can be reached at [email protected].