Earlier this week, in an article about the ongoing investigation of the death of a Hollywood publicist, a Beverly Hills Police Department spokesperson made a comment defending his department’s position that the murder was perpetuated by a man riding a bicycle. The Times quotes Lt. Tony Lee as saying:
“I can tell you from personal experience that using a bicycle as a mode of transportation is extremely prevalent with criminals. You can’t copy a license plate; they get in and out of traffic; hide into the shadows of the night, through alleyways; and can dump the bike and can jump into a bus. It occurs all the time.”
Wait a second…did he just say that cyclists are likely to be criminals? Ted Rogers, at Biking In L.A., thought so he commented that,
Maybe that’s why cops are so quick to cuff cyclists during traffic stops. If you assume — despite all evidence to the contrary — that the use of bikes in criminal activity is “extremely” widespread, it’s not a big jump to assume every cyclist is a potential criminal
I also chatted with personal injury attorney Howard Krepak, a cycling lawyer that’s crossed through Beverly Hills many times. He commented that he generally has a good impression of the BHPD, but that this statement was troubling. “In our experience, it’s far more likely to be the other way around. That cyclists are attacked or harassed than cyclists acting as criminals.” However, he insisted that I should talk to Lee himself as his statement sounded a little strange. Perhaps it sounded better in context.
It’s a good thing I did.
“No. no. no. no. no. no. no,” said Lee when I reached him on his phone when I asked if he meant to imply that one was more likely to be a criminal. “I’m a cyclist myself and that’s never something I would want people to think.”
He hadn’t yet read the Times article, but wondered about the context of the quote. We also talked about injuries we both got while riding. His broken bones are certainly worse than my scarred knees. When I asked what his experience with cyclists and lawbreakers was, he did comment that, “A lot of people do use a bike as a getaway vehicle. They’re light. They’re fast. They’re versatile. And, they’re affordable.”
But what about cyclists not being criminals. Is this a case of “many criminals choose to use bikes, but comparatively few cyclists are criminals.”
“Yes, that’s it.” he replied.
So in the case of “Did the Beverly Hills Police Lieutenant declare that cyclists are criminals?,” the answer is a maybe. It might have been what was said, we don’t actually have a transcript of what he said to the Times, but it certainly wasn’t what he meant.