JERSEY CITY, NJ - After viewing the body camera footage supplied by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, community leaders in Jersey City have made a plea for the resignation of a police officer they claim used excessive force breaking up a fight on Bostwick Ave. on May 5.
Chris Gadsden, a member of the Jersey City NAACP, was joined by activists Pamela Johnson, Frank Gilmore and Nevin Perkins calling for the suspension without pay of Police Officer Bryant Rowan, who was prominently seen on body cam footage, as well as other videos, using his baton to subdue two suspects.
“We want Officer Bryant Rowan Jr. to be fired or to be taken off the Jersey City Police force because of the excessive use of force on May 5,” Gadsden said, with Gilmore adding that the tapes they have seen are “beyond disturbing.”
Police were called to the area on the day of the incident on a report of a large fight, with additional officers being dispatched when some officers appeared to be under attack by some of the suspects.
Responding officers used pepper spray, and when this, according to the police, failed to subdue the suspects, batons, striking non-life-threatening areas of their bodies.
Following the incident, local police officials claimed one or more suspects may have been trying to grab an officer’s weapon which would have justified the use of force. Video including the body cams clearly showed the use of batons but did not fully capture the build up to the incident.
Gadsden disputes the City’s interpretation of a short clip that local officials have said shows a man lunging towards the police officers’ gun, before starting a foot chase. That man, Gadsden says, pushed the cop then ran.
At least two officers arrived on the scene with their batons already out, suggesting that they had already made up their minds to use them, Gadsden added.
Soon after the incident that is still under investigation by the Hudson County’ Prosecutor’s Office, Mayor Steven Fulop, Public Safety Director James Shea and Police Chief Mike Kelly said they had reviewed some of the video and concluded that the officers involved in the incident had acted according to procedure.
A statement by city spokesperson Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione followed the press conference and offered a reminder that the Fulop Administration "has a record of disciplining and firing officers that used force unnecessarily. Standing by their initial findings the statement continued that "the facts are that several officers were assaulted by the public as verified by both the body cameras and independent video."
"It is unfortunate that Chris Gadsden would like to exploit this situation with misinformation for personal gain and politicize violence against police officers.”
Also standing by his statement that "police lives were at risk,” Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association President Carmine Disbrow said on Monday that the responding officers “should be commended for the way they put their training into practice that day, despite the dangers they faced, they kept the community safe.”
In addition to questioning the analyses of the videos, activists also raised questions about Rowan’s background and suitability as a police officer, claiming that politics played a part in his hiring – even over the previous objections of Mayor Fulop.
Gadsden said the city owes the community an apology for the narrative put out after the incident, claiming what they saw on the video was horrendous, concluding that the $1 million de-escalation training announced just weeks after the incident isn’t enough.
Editor's Note: The publisher of TAPinto Jersey City also serves as a communications consultant for the JCPOBA
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