Who Watches the Watchmen?: LAPD Still Ticketing for No Bike License

3_23_09_thompson.jpgImage via Alex Thompson at WestSide BikeSIDE!

This Saturday, Crank Mob, possibly the largest of Los Angeles’ group bike rides, had a more than interesting evening even by Crank Mob standards.  The Mob experienced a constant police presence including a road block and the detainment of several cyclists at the Ralph’s at 3rd and La Brea.

After the police were summoned, perhaps because of a shoplifting incident which saw riders catch and turn in the alleged thief; there are many many reports that the police started harassing random cyclists in an attempt to control the mob.  Apparently, they didn’t succeed as later in the evening the Hollywood District of the LAPD referred to them as a "herd of wild buffalo."

A big part of the LAPD’s control strategy was similar to those seen across the country.  Grab a small group of cyclists and write up bogus citations.  Unable to effectively arrest those that were breaking the law, after all the Hollywood District didn’t issue citations to the "herd of wild buffalo," the LAPD goes for a "guilt by association" strategy that leads to handcuffing and searching a pedestrian for crossing against a flashing red hand and more distressingly ticketing for a violation of LAMC 26.01 b "NO (sic) licence (sic) on Bike (sic)."  Handcuffing someone for not having a bike license?  For crossing the street against a flashing red hand?  What country am I living in?

What’s really weird is I would have sworn that I read a report by LAPD Police Chief William Bratton that called for the ending of the program.  Even worse, I then remember the City Council approving Bratton’s plan and suspending the city’s program.  It’s a good thing I write these things down, or I would assume I were going crazy.  Is the City Council just an advisory group these days?

No matter one’s feelings on group rides, one should be able to agree that everyone deserves equal protection under the law.  On Saturday night, the LAPD didn’t just thumb its nose at the LAPD Police Chief, and the City Council…they also took the opportunity to thumb their nose at the Constitution.

  • It amazes me that a police department already under a federal consent degree would so blatantly violate civil rights in this manner. While I can imagine they felt a need to rein this ride in, it’s is not — and has never been — within their rights to ignore well-established constitutional rights.

    This is exactly why every cyclist, and ever citizen of this city, has to get more involved in the political process. Because things will not change until we demand that they do.

  • Uh. . . so, if the city isn’t enforcing the bike license program, does that mean those citations are worthless, and those to whom they were issued don’t need to worry about them?

  • (reposted from the original post)

    Actually, the best thing to do here is to make the system pay (literally) for giving the ticket. That’s with the method of delay, declare (trial by declaration), and de novo.

    First, postpone the ticket as long as possible. Basically, wait until the date written on the ticket, and a week or so before go to the LA Superior Court web site and extend the ticket date 60 days. Then, go to the courthouse sometime in the last week of the 60 days and request a night court arraignment. That will push the ticket back another 20-60 days.

    At the night court arraignment, request a trial by declaration. (You can also do so by mail within the 60 day extension period should you not want to show up to court. ALWAYS send anything to the court with certified mail… although you can hold the return receipt, as you can print out the proof of receipt online.) Yes, you will have to pay the cost of “bail” (or the cost of the ticket) at that time if you do it by mail (or you can convince the night court judge to waive that if you show hardship). Then fill out the trial by declaration form if you receive it, and write down why you’re not guilty. At this stage, most cops won’t bother to fill out the form, especially for a pedestrian or bicycle citation. And you’ve saved the cost of taking time off work to beat the officer.

    “De novo” comes in if, for some odd reason, the court finds you guilty. Basically, this means you get to confront the officer in court; a second bite at the apple. File the appropriate paperwork to request a trial de novo, which will be pushed out another 60 days away. Then see if he shows up. (If you’re really gung ho about this, if the trial is held in front of a commissioner, you can vacate the trial YET AGAIN and force a trial to be held in front of a duly sworn judge.)

    Remember that these violations are zero pointers. If you need help, use your LA Public Library card, log in, and look for the Netbook “Fight Your Ticket and Win in California.” No sense in making it easy for the system to work.

  • David, I think it means they might have a damn good case once they get in front of a judge — assuming they can get a copy of the memo. On the other hand, the law is still on the books, so the judge could enforce it if the mood strikes.

  • They definitely have a copy of the memo. Heck, it’s linked in the post above.

    Honestly, as was pointed out by the writer at Metblogs, the LAPD could maybe have picked one or two other people that are more able/willing to fight this sort of crap in LA.

  • One thing I can’t forgive – CRANK MOB has institutionalized (to old fogeys like me) being a drunk jack ass. The Midnight Ridazz founders got out of the ride because of stupid antics and toxic inebriation on rides. I know that having fun on bikes is a huge positive thing, but people get hurt riding drunk and crazy on these rides. I’ve seen it happen lots of times, it is no joke. Idiots abuse the power of the group of bike riders to act like complete jerks to others as well.

    I’m going to stop short of yelling at kids to get off my lawn, but a part of me thinks that this baby-like yelping about a lousy $10 ticket, slap-on-the-wrist, non-punishment should be laughed at instead of turned into a civil rights trial.

    I doubt that that “memo” about not enforcing the law isn’t going to be worth squat – otherwise the LAPD could issue memos about whatever it wanted and change the law without approval of the legislature. calwatch’s suggestions are the way to go to beat the ticket, but pretending like that memo meant anything is a bit silly, I feel. It would have taken a few council votes to get the law repealed, but we don’t have enough political clout, yet, to get that done.

    Sorry to rant – but you kids get off my … sorry I’ll go chill out somewhere 30+ people hang out.

  • Rider

    I think the rides should not make pit stops at grocery stores, this is where the problems with the rides are starting, and when theft takes place randomly and the riders happen to be there it looks bad on the mob (even if we did stop the thieves) also I dont think drinking is a good idea on the ride, people are getting hurt, I saw a guy crash into the back of a parked car, and he looked bad, A no drinking attitude should be encouraged during the rides.

  • WTF are people DRINKING on bike rides? BUI is just a much a crime as DUI is, and can be just as deadly as well (if you run over a pedestrian crossing the street at speed, for instance). If you’re drunk, don’t attempt to go faster than walking speed. The worst thing you can do is kill yourself.

  • I don’t think the cops should stopping anyone for bs, but it seems like the only time things really catch on via online is if it happens to certain people. That is crap. We should all support each other, not just when it happens to you.

    I wonder how much internet outrage I would hear if I posted up the many times I saw young black and latino boys hand cuffed by the sheriff for the petty offense of fair evasion or just walking around the neighborhood. And what if it was found out that those same kids had once had a prior or had drunken parties. Then it would be post after post on how they deserved it.

    I’m commenting here, because for the most part I think Newton does a good job trying to be fair, but the rest of thse blogs and their covering of this story when this kinds of shit has been going on for years in LA (Newton is not even from LA, he just got dropped off last year and he’s more fair than LA locals) and people told them about it and they didn’t give a shit, it’s just like wow, so the cops are only bad when they are messing with your friends.

    To me this doesn’t seem like it is about civil liberties, this seems like it is about about what certain people want the right to do and I wish people would just tell the truth and stop pretending to be wordly like they care about the world around them, because they don’t and they know they don’t.

    If certain people were mad because this cop messed with their friend then just say that, but this people acting like they are concered about civil liberties and that kind of thing, because people’s track records show they really don’t give a shit unless it impacts them directly.

    You know who the police also still tickets and handcuffs for no reason random young men of color who are just walking around. And I’m not trying to minimize what has happened to the person whose rights where violated, but remember that poem by Martin Niemoller:

    When the Nazis came for the communists,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a communist.
    Then they locked up the social democrats,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a social democrat.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    I did not speak out;
    I was not a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    I did not speak out;
    I was not a Jew.

    When they came for me,
    there was no one left to speak out for me

    That’s all I’m saying. Damn, why didn’t you believe us, now the cops have pretty much perfected being assholes on our backs and they are using it on you now.

    You all think this is pretty crazy and outrageous well imagine that happening to you weekly for just walking around and simply being targeted because your skin color and hair makes the police automatically think you’re dangerous. You know why some people of color won’t give up their car, because this is the kind of thing that will happen to you even when you don’t have a bike if you’re a black or latino guy and you walk around the city.


  • angle


    It is not a matter of ignoring or not caring about other incidents involving civil rights violations.

    The victims in this instance are reporting on what happened to them personally, and while it does involve basic issues of civil rights, it also has a direct connection to the subject matter that this blog covers (public transit, cycling and pedestrian issues). While reporting other occourances of civil rights violations by the LAPD may be beyond the scope of this single website, I do think that the post above could help expose incidents of this nature, and possibly give other citizens an idea of how to conduct themselves in similar situations.

  • Did you read what I put Angle? I was talking about alt car issues, just because I bring up the words black or Latino and racism it doesn’t automatically change it to not a non environmental or non alt transit issue.

    And if you want people to get out of their cars, then we should talk about all of the reasons that people don’t walk around in LA and a large demographic of people don’t walk around LA, because they don’t want to get their teeth kicked in my LAPD.

    The alt transit movmement is for everyone, right?

    Obviously people of color need to start blogging every instance of police stopping them for no reason when they are outside of their car. You think DWB is bad, walking while black or brown is about 20 times worse. I think certain communities are so used to it though that they forget this is a major big deal. And I’m not being sarcastic, it is a major big deal, but it happens so often in some communities that they forget that this is news, but also the LA Times that bastard of a paper feels that the deaths in certain communities aren’t worth anything more than a blub on a blog, so maybe it’s just a LA thing where some people’s rights, liberties and mobility are worth way more than other peoples’s.

  • browne,

    The people who got these tickets are the ones who have the skills, resources, and leisure time to do things like photograph, document, and write about their travails.

    I think it is a waste of their time to get so worked up about this particular instance of “abuse”, but them’s the breaks, right?


    You better believe people get drunk on a lot of these rides. Not all of them, but they’re generally parties on two wheels. The art ride I have been doing ends up with folks a little tipsy at the end of it. We’re in a big pack, we’re going slow, and most of the riders are adults who don’t want to wake up hung over.

    There is a big difference between that (lame?) crowd and the super cute kids going out to get faded on bikes on a Friday night. Nobody wants to give kids a chance to be adults (until they commit a crime), so they find ways to entertain themselves. It doesn’t have to be a crazy disaster of shoplifting and bike crashes, but the CRANK MOB aesthetic sort of emphasizes that aspect of things where other rides don’t.

    Anyway, the people who put on a lot of Ridazz rides are a pretty savvy bunch and it will be a tough time trying to pigeon-hole all these social rides as one tawdry pub on wheels with occasional trips to the emergency room.

  • not that I want to wade into this debate… but I will say Midnight Ridazz is awesome from my point of view. All points made have been right in some way or another – but don’t forget to see the forest instead of just a few trees…these rides celebrate bike culture, our streets and eachother. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been riding midnight ridazz during the nite looking around and seeing so many smiles – it’s a blast. But yes, super drunkenness and belligerence anywhere is always scary and a drag and something when I find myself caught up in I walk (or pedal) away from quickly. Ride on Ridazz

  • la biker

    If you’ve been mistreated, harassed or ticketed unfairly by police while riding in Culver City please contact me ASAP at
    I’ll be talking with a captain there about this.
    Don’t just reply here as I may not see it.

  • harrased man

    yup I have experienced first hand about being harassed by the LAPD. I ride my bike at night or in the evening, I work full time so sometimes I gotta train at night, well I have been followed for months not only by cruiser, undercover but at times by helicopter also. it is quite crazy and sometimes the patrols speed by really close to you in order to get a reaction I nearly been hit by these cars twice , the only way the LAPD can somewhat control the gang problem is by scaring the everyone and everybody . it’s a waste of tax payer money and btw isn’t California in a financial deficit? ms 13 gang members will basically laugh in the cops faces it’s pretty sad . ms has an extensive network of spies around the LA area so when cops are coming down the street the gang members whistle or honk their car horns or make a popping sound with their mouths to warn all the other gang members . so it’s like a catch 22 while the cops are trying to police around some of the latino, black and white community members don’t care because LAPD harasses innocent people and not the ones causing all the trouble so the actual community does not call the police, I don’t blame them I rather see tagging and hear shots being fired in the middle of the night than being harassed by the police and have the police not do anything about the gangs. the truth is that the police has all new laws to monitor/spy on everyone and they do. but why do they choose to do what they do? well it goes to show you what times we live in and how far our protective services are willing to go. in fact take Katrina as an example. when it comes down to it . we the citizens are on our own. oh by the way there is always an ms 13 hang out on 4th and coronado st. and rampart and 3rd in L.A. also avoid coronado and sunset which is only 1/4 mile from the nearest firestation you can also tell by the heavy tagging . so don’t frequent this area if you don’t want to be robbed or harassed by the LAPD.


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