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Roundtable discussion highlights allegations of bias at Bridgewater Police Department

There are calls for transparency and change when it comes to race and the Bridgewater Police Department.

News 12 Staff

Mar 3, 2022, 11:57 AM

Updated 838 days ago


There are calls for transparency and change when it comes to race and the Bridgewater Police Department.
A roundtable discussion was held at the Bridgewater Municipal Building on Thursday. It was sparked by a viral video of how police officers handled a fight between two teenagers at the Bridgewater Commons Mall last month. A Black teen was thrown on the ground and placed in handcuffs, while a lighter-skinned Latino teen was told to sit down on a couch.
Some of the people who attended the discussion say that the police force has an issue when it comes to race. They say that people of color are not being treated fairly and are calling for it to be addressed immediately.
“If this fight has taken place in a cafeteria, a teacher would’ve said, ‘Cut it out.’ No tackling, no handcuffs,” said one mother who attended the meeting.
"We are going to ask the mayor and police chief, 'What are you going to do to make public safety equal in Bridgewater so that white teenagers and Black teens get the same equal treatment in this town?'” said another mother.
Some people at the meeting called the police officers’ actions embarrassing and an obvious act of bias. The matter is now under investigation by the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office.
Some leaders were given a chance to respond to the allegations.
"They were policeman first instead of being human first. We have to speak to one another respect one another,” says Pastor David Hobbs.
Police Chief Paul Payne could not respond to the actual incident because it is under investigation. But he said that the force is embracing reforms. He says the top priority is getting officers out of patrol cars.
"We want to get involved with the community we serve. We want them to know us and we want to learn from them,” Payne says.
This fight gained nationwide attention and when member Black Lives Matter spoke in the community this week about systemic racism. They were met with a derogatory banner over Route 22 alongside the mall. further fueling complaints about police and community bias.
The family of Z’Kye Hussain, the Black teen handcuffed during the fight, has filed a federal lawsuit.
The two police officers involved have not yet been identified. They are on administrative leave.

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