JERSEY CITY, NJ - Police who responded to a report of a large street fight on Bostwick Avenue on Tuesday appear to have been defending themselves in the use of force, said city officials at a press conference Wednesday.
Mayor Steven Fulop, Public Safety Director James Shea and Police Chief Mike Kelly said that the matter is being investigated and tapes are being reviewed by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
As he said he has done with past incidents, Fulop told reporters that if he had seen something wrong he'd say it.
A video shot from above the scene showed several police officers using nightsticks in a conflict that involved scores of people, and appeared to show police officers using batons to help rescue a fellow officer pinned down by two of those engaged in the fight.
Shea said the first 911 call came into the station at about 5:16 p.m. with six officers – including several on walking patrol, responding to the report that a fight involving more than 100 people was transpiring.
“When we got a third report of a street fight involving 100 people, we dispatched six officers,” Chief Kelly said. “No more officers were dispatched to help them until it was reported that the crowd was engaging with the police officers.”
Shea said the suspects approached the officers when the police attempted to break up the fight.
“Pepper spray was deployed by our officers and it had no effect,” Shea said. “Then the officer deployed his expandable baton which is designed to be used if the pepper spray does not work.” The officer used the baton against the two individuals who were wrestling with the officers, striking arms, legs and the buttocks, Shea said, as required by regulations.
“The police officers acted with great restraint and used the force necessary to bring this situation to a close.” Shea said. “Nobody was hurt, not even the people who were fighting with the police.”
The two directly involved with the alleged assault on the police were arrested along with two others. “They have been released with future court dates,” Shea said.
Although there was no CCTV video available, officers were wearing body cameras and there were other video outlets available. Shea, however, said this is an active investigation and that any witness or person with video should come forward to the department’s internal affairs unit or to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office – which is investigating the incident.
He stressed that the incident is under investigation, not any particular officers.
While no civilians were injured two police officers were treated for lacerations and other injuries and two others were treated for exposure to pepper spray, Shea said.
Officials said they do not yet know what started the fight.
"Watching the video closely, not just accepting it with social media rhetoric attached, makes one thing clear," said Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association President Carmine Disbrow. "Police lives were at risk.”
“This confrontation was precipitated by individuals who are more committed to creating chaos than by abiding to even the most basic of community standards. I am proud of how my members handled themselves and showed restraint in one of the most dangerous circumstances any law enforcement officer can face."
Council President Joyce Watterman called it “an unfortunate situation” adding that “we know we have a good police force.”
Also sharing his thoughts was community activist Bruce Alston who said the incident “unmasks a bigger issue, the lack of respect and mistrust between the community and the police,” and shared his hope that moving forward both sides will “forge a benign collaboration in order to begin improving the quality of life issues and the overall relationship between both.”
Anyone with any information regarding the incident is asked to call the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office or the JCPD Internal Affairs Bureau at 201-547-5472.
Editor's Note: The publisher of TAPinto Jersey City also serves as a communications consultant for the JCPOBA
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