SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- Two high school juniors from Scotch Plains, Miles Roper and Jonah Leibowitz, created an online petition last Sunday proposing specific reforms to end racism in police departments. (See below.) Their goal is get an audience with Governor Phil Murphy. The boys say that it has now received more than 11,000 signatures on change.org and massive support from across the country. 

“The response to the petition has been absolutely incredible. It had 800 signatures in the first few hours, and just three days later, it has 10,000 signatures," Leibowitz, 17, who attends Academic for Information Technology (AIT), said. "I think the reason our message is so popular is because it’s bipartisan. It includes the viewpoints of both the left and right and doesn’t alienate anyone."

"We wanted Governor Murphy to acknowledge us and show that Gen Z kids can make their voices heard," Roper told TAPintoSPF. "We never expected this many people to sign the petition."

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“Coming from an African American family with two parents that have had a history of social activism, I wanted to do something. It upsets me that every time a black man or woman is killed, it gets swept under the carpet and goes unaddressed after a week or two of people being angry," Roper, 17, said. "Once the news about George Floyd came out, everyone was outraged and it brought an issue [institutional racism in law enforcement] that’s been simmering for years to national attention. We felt that there were a lot of people condemning racism, the government, or the police, but mostly empty statements without any real goal."

Leibowitz told TAPintoSPF that he and Roper hope to get a response from Governor Murphy saying that he will do his best to incorporate their ideas into our actual legislation. They also want to demonstrate that it’s possible for teenagers and Americans outside of government to make your voice heard and get politicians to represent their ideas.

The two longtime friends and teammates on the SPFHS track team plan on marching at the protest in Scotch Plains on June 4 and hope that they will be able to spread awareness of the petition.

" If not, I’m happy to simply be there to show solidarity to George Floyd and African Americans around the country," Roper said.

Dear Governor Murphy,

In the past week, the fallout from the murder of George Floyd has rocked the country. We are disturbed by the horrible acts of Derek Chauvin and his fellow officers, and are glad that swift legal action has been taken. We, the teenagers of New Jersey have had enough. We know that our police officers not only enforce the law, but affect the wellbeing of our communities. While some officers are in the wrong, accusing every law enforcement officer isn’t productive. It’s time to identify specifically what’s wrong with the law enforcement system and change it. We have written a list of reforms we feel are crucial to eliminating police brutality once and for all.

1. Harsher punishment for police misconduct
2. Investigation into Implicit Bias Training
3. Better vetting of officers/ monitoring of police activity
4. A united, bipartisan message from all American lawmakers that racism isn’t tolerated

We are living in a year that will define our future. Our generation’s actions now will determine our place in American history. We were born into a country with a disgusting history of racism, but it goes no further. We don’t plan on tolerating the institutional persecution of African Americans any longer. Can we count on you to help change our country for the better?

Sign the petition here: Change.org/p/governor-phil-murphy-ending-racism-in-american-law-enforcement