Cyclists Pedal to Police Commission and Inspector General to Demand Equal Rights

4_28_09_andres.jpgAndres Tena, the cyclist hospitalized after being run down from behind by a hummer last week, testifies at the LA Police Commission Hearing as Chicken Leather films.

For as long as I’ve been in Los Angeles, there has been a side bar on the Midnight Ridazz official website which reads:

RIDAZZ SALUTE LAPD

The Midnight Ridazz would like to extend a
sincere thanks to the LAPD and especially to the officer (whose name we
did not get) who recently helped to escort our ride through the streets
of Los Angeles. We are all part of the neighborhoods we ride and we
support the LAPD!

However, over at least the last year, the relationship has been souring.  Anecdotally, cyclists have complained about unequel treatment or a presumption of guilt from officers when there is a conflict.  While cyclists have had success in getting tickets revoked either by LAPD management or judges; these victories are akin to treating the symptoms of an illness but not the virus itself.  This morning, a group of cyclists headed down to the Parker Center to finally address the virus but testifying on our shared experiences to the board charged with providing oversite to the LAPD.

The infection of unequal treatment is best illustrated by the sarcastic callousness of Officer Cho last week after a hummer ran down a group of cyclists from beyond hospitalizing one, ran through the group again while they tried to get the driver’s information, and threatened the cyclists with gang violence.  Cho was the commanding officer of the "investigation" which allowed the hummer driver to head off without a ticket while Cho lectured the cyclists on how he "knows how you people bike" and threatening them with a little violence of his own.

The first rider to testify was Andres Tena, the hospitalized victim from last week’s attack-by-hummer driver.  Tena was visibly emotional during his testimony where he outlined his experience from last Friday morning.  He concluded by stating that even though he’s a life-long cyclist, he’s been scared on his bike since the attack.  While Tena wasn’t the most polished speaker of the day, longtime activist Stephen Box, LACBC Staffer Aurisha Smolarski or cyclist/lawyer Daniel Jimenez hold that honor, his powerful, personal testimony provided the heart that drove the rest of the testimony.

Other witnesses to last week’s attacks included John Dorsey who tried
to report the threat of gun violence to Cho and Matthew Simmons who
tried to block the SUV after his attack on Tena and was run off the
road.  Simmons noted that because the attack was deemed an "accident"
in the official police report means that the cyclists will get no help
recouping the bicycles that were destroyed, even the one that was
dragged underneath the hummer for several blocks.

Jimenez described how the attack of last Thursday and the ambivalence of the responding officers when he stated that, "Cyclists deserve to expect reasonable behavior when police come in contact with one cyclist or a group of cyclists…that is not happening right now.  That is unacceptable."

Also testifying was ride leader "Roadblock" discussed how recently, police actions against group rides such as Critical Mass or other rides promoted by the Midnight Ridazz have been unfair and perhaps illegal.  When reports come in that "cyclists are running red lights" the police respond by ticketing random cyclists claiming they saw them ran a red light, sometimes five to ten minutes after the light was "run."  Also, attempts to pull cyclists over have included police cars driving in to groups of cyclists endangering all of them.

By rule, the Commission is unable to respond to comments as the City Council or Metro Board is able to.  However, at the end of testimony, Commission President Anthony Pacheo thanked the cyclist for attending and urged them to contact the office of Inspector General Andre Girotte Jr.

And that’s exactly what the cyclists did.  A group of twenty cyclists mounted at LAPD headquarters and headed across town to the Inspector General’s office.  Girotte was still at the Parker Center to help the Commission during its closed session  However, Girotte spoke to several of the cyclists present and talked in some length to Box about the last time that cyclists spoke at the Police Commission about the bike license ticketing at the last CRANK MOB.

When they arrived, the cyclists broke into two groups.  The witnesses and victims from last week’s hummer attack and a group making more general complaints about "group by association" ticketing and the lack of an official code for the LAPD to stop cyclists and police group rides.  The Inspector General’s office will look investigate last week’s attack and police policies and write official reports and make recommendations to the LAPD.

  • Brent

    Would it make sense for riders to carry video cameras, if even only one of those little Flip things? It seems there’s regular interaction with the police and drivers, and perhaps a video of what happened would help make a better case for cyclists. This suggestion assumes, of course, that the cyclists are doing the right thing…

  • Unfortunately, police bias against cyclists has been a problem as long as I’ve been riding in this town, which goes back a couple of decades.

    Usually, there’s not a problem until we need help, such as following an accident or harassment by a motorist. Then we discover that the responding officer will invariably disregard the cyclist’s complaint or assume that the rider had to be responsible. I’ve heard the same complaint from virtually every rider I’ve spoken with.

    Judging from comments I’ve seen from riders in other cities, anti-cyclist bias is a common problem across the country — even in a bicycle paradise like Portland. But it’s an even bigger problem here in L.A., where cyclists must compete with far too many drivers for far too little road space, and we need fair enforcement from police to protect us and sort out the inevitable conflicts.

  • Stephen Box made it sound like things looked hopeful working with the LAPD’s brass. If we can keep up the pressure, perhaps we’ll have some better training and enforcement from the police someday soon.

    I’ll see you on Friday morning at City Hall to make some noise for cyclists’ rights.

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