Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I guess that using a left turn lane on a green arrow is probable cause for some police officers to contact bicyclists. Having been in Law Enforcement for a solid fifteen years, I know better. It was a case of profiling, plain and simple.

The number one and number two lanes were clear enough for my move to the turn lane lane, which was preceded by a hand signal. I had both an operating headlight and taillight on my bicycle. What was I guilty of? It would seem that I was guilty of riding a bicycle around 10:30PM, going much faster than the usual nighttime sidewalk riders in the area, and being assertive about it while using the traffic lanes. I was probably guilty of not being geared up as a recreational cyclist as well, wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and no bicycle specific gear.

Getting contacted by LE was not that confusing because I get contacted often enough for riding my bicycle in traffic and being assertive about it. The car culture is so ingrained here, many LE members just aren't aware of what a cyclist's rights in the roadway truly are. This is especially true at night, when normal people wouldn't even consider taking a ride on a beach boardwalk bike path. What was confusing was the manner in which I was treated by the individual who decided to contact me.

Knowing what I know about LE, of course there was nothing for me to do but cooperate and be respectful of the fact that this person was doing what the taxpayers pay them to do. All of my responses ended with "sir". I pulled in to the parking lot just beyond the intersection and dismounted my bicycle as he zoomed into the parking lot behind me, tires screeching to a halt. Ok, he's a little worked up. He starts in with my he stopped me, claiming I "pulled right out in front of him", to which I replied that I saw a car approaching, thought I had enough room and signaled my intentions before changing lanes. He either didn't see me stick my arm out, or neglected to mention that he did.

Then he starts in on a battery of standard and some not so standard questions. I didn't have my driver's license on me because I was not driving, nor do I carry a wallet, which he claimed was not normal. He didn't believe me when I told him my age, or my name and basically called me a liar in so many words. Then he does a flashlight eye check on me to see if I'm under the influence of methamphetamine. After that, he tells me, "Just admit it and I'll go easy on you." I replied, "Admit what?" "Admit you're lying about your name and you have warrants." "I don't know what you're talking about because I have never had a warrant for my arrest." Then he starts in again about not believing who I say I am and then asks who he can call to confirm who I am. Without batting an eye or missing a beat I recited the phone number of the last LE agency I worked for and said to call them and the supervisor on duty will be able to describe me. It would have been even nicer if he had thought I was bluffing and called them.

After deflating a substantial amount and obviously standing down, he ran me through CLETS to check my driver's license. Of course I have a valid driver's license and no warrants. I'm just someone who is as they say they are, a citizen going home after an evening out, nothing more, nothing less. His well toned-down "have a nice evening" when he let me go was a true testament to him knowing he had screwed up.

I'm certain that if I had lodged a complaint against this officer and that whole contact had been recorded, there would have been a problem for him. I can honestly say that I was not in the least bit disrespectful to this officer, though his actions were far less than respectful of me in turn. I'm not about revenge or causing problems for an officer just because they had a severe lapse in judgement. I never know when that very same officer is going to save my bacon when something goes wrong beyond my control when riding at night. He can probably thank the benevolent Whittier officers who responded to the hit and run where my friend Kenny and I got hit last year.

They never really know who they have until they push too far and that sometimes goes for either side of the good guy/bad guy coin.


Blogger GeorgiaDes said...

I really like how you dealt with this situation. As a fellow late night rider, I know it's difficult to do what you enjoy and not get hassled. Although "the law" can be pushy, the respect you gave this officer put you above reproach for any possible suspicion.

17 February, 2008 14:14  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you did great. That cop was being a jerk. Someone linked this ovwer on Bike forums.

26 May, 2008 08:45  
Blogger Alice Strong said...

Oh my!

A close friend of mine also had a recent encounter with one of our best and brightest while on her bicycle.

It ended with her being reassured by the officer that she will certainly end up "being mowed down and killed" for merely riding as part of traffic.

Further education required...

26 May, 2008 09:41  
Blogger starkmojo said...

I always carry a wallet when I head out...

That post makes the rain in Portland worth dealing with. Because no matter where you go in Portland when it isnt raining you will see bicycles.

01 June, 2008 09:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, but I think you should have filed a complaint. It was wrong for that cop to have behaved that way at all and I do not see how you forgiving him will help him improve himself.

26 June, 2008 23:38  
Blogger commutant said...

Leave it to an anonymous victicrat to whine about something they obviously know so little about. Is the sky falling too, Chicken Little?

08 July, 2008 13:15  

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