A Jersey City arrest on Neptune Avenue that involved use of force, particularly a young man being grabbed by the hair and neck after a routine arrest went sideways, is drawing some scrutiny due to cell phone videos circulating on social media.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“I told you back up, right? You wanna go to?,” Police Officer Lovey Robertson can be heard saying in a four-minute Facebook video after two arrests are made near the intersection of Neptune Avenue and Old Bergen Road.
The main point of contention in the video occurs when a man with dreadlocks and a green t-shirt confronts police and has his hair pulled as he is being arrested, with expletives being traded as the scene gets chaotic.
“Back up! Back up!,” another officer shouts at the crowd.
A few seconds later, Robertson unholster her police baton and shouts at the crowd to back off, before a second officer unholsters his pepper spray canister.
“All you officers is b******,” the man filming the video yells as the group begins to disperse. He also insist that “y’all jumped two brothers.”
Inevitably, the clip, which had a shorter version circulating on Instagram, drew some sharp responses.
“This chick is a ****ing problem. She wanted it to escalate. She wanted to lock more up! She kept saying ‘you want to go?,’” Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement Executive Director Pamela Johnson wrote on a post from former Ward B Councilman Chris Gadsden.
Now the chair of the Jersey City NAACP PAC and the Lincoln High School principal, Gadsden said on Facebook that “de-escalation was needed” and expressed disappointment with Robertson’s conduct.
On the other end of the spectrum, some of Robertson’s colleagues felt that she did a great job when faced with a difficult situation.
“She was fine the crowd was more disrespectful and aggressive-then she was further people should learn how to follow directions. Period,” wrote Jersey City Police Det. Dejon Morris.
“I don’t know what is so difficult about being respectful, obey lawful commands, and don’t become combative. I mean you don’t need to have a bachelor’s degree to have common sense!,” added Jersey City Police Sgt. Alexander Rivera.
When asked if the incident had prompted an investigation or any other administrative action, city spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said that while they take use of force incidents seriously, the one in question occurred after there was interference in “a lawful arrest.”
“The officers involved in the incident purportedly reflected on social media were apprehending a person when bystanders attempted to interfere in the lawful arrest. All use of force is not automatically improper,” she explained.
“A chaotic scene on a short video is neither evidence of excessive force or evidence of justified use of force. If any citizen thinks they have suffered or observed an improper use of force by our members, they are encouraged to report it for a thorough investigation.”
Also worth noting is that Robertson has responded to two other well-known incidents in recent memory.
She was one of many officers who were on the scene at the May 5th street fight on Bostwick Avenue, where police batons were used and pepper spray was deployed.
The incident has led for calls from activists for Police Officer Bryant Rowan, to face disciplinary action for using his baton repeatedly, though the matter remains under investigation by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
The other was a more recent two-alarm fire near the same block, where Robertson was one of four officers credited with rescuing people from the burning building.