Saturday, July 05, 2008

SLNC Endorses Cyclists' Bill of Rights! LAPD Stomps on Them!

Watch Commander Donatoni points.

Andrea, Officer Stine, Officer Corona and Paul.

Sgt. Harrington supervises the release of cyclist #1. Paul remains in custody for 15-20 minutes. (Photos by Alex Thompson.)

This past Wednesday evening, the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council became the 2nd NC to endorse the Cyclists' Bill of Rights, sending a message to the City of Los Angeles that "We need to do anything we can to support cyclists!"

It was a great evening, warm air, lots of energy, and Scoops was still open. Some rode to HelMel, others to TrenWay, plans were made for next weeks ride to pick up the 3rd NC endorsement at the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council and eventually everybody went their own way.

A little after midnight, the phone rang. "They're handcuffing cyclists!" my wife yells.

Alex Thompson is on the phone, he was part of a group of three, riding home to the WestSide from TrenWay when they came across a cyclist they had earlier passed on the road, this time he was standing on the side of the road with LAPD officers and in handcuffs.

Just him and the Police, late at night, no witnesses.

Paul Bringetto later recounted that he found himself wondering "How would I feel?" and that prompted him to return, get off his bike, walk down the sidewalk and identify himself to the Police, offering himself to the detainee as an observer.

Rather than accept, deny, or simply act confused and ask for a supervisor so that they could get some guidance, they chose to handcuff Paul and then began to search him, his backpack, all as Paul said he wasn't giving them permission to search his bag.

Meanwhile, I've got Lt. Donatoni, the Watch Commander of the Hollywood Station, on one phone while Enci is on the phone with Alex, giving me updates as I go round and round with Donatoni, urging him to take responsibility for his unnecessarily aggressive Officers. (Alex and Andrea are watching from a distance)

Lt. Donatoni and I take some time to get settled into a conversation where we can work together to calm the situation down. He was at first defiant, flip, and accusatory, pointing out over and over that I'm not on the scene so how do I know what's going on?

I keep pointing out that I don't know what's going on, I simply want the Watch Commander to get a Supervisor to the scene and I want him to be accountable for his Officers and I want him to take responsibility for asking the simple questions, why handcuffs?

He slows down and instructs me to have Alex approach the Officers and request a Supervisor. Alex does and reports back that the response is "No, and if you don't leave, you'll be arrested also." I point out to Lt. Donatoni that his instructions and the officers responses are out of sync and that this is on him and requires his intervention. He gets a supervisor to the scene.

The specifics of the incident belong to Paul, Alex and Andrea. they will fill in the details as they report on the incident from their perspectives. But for now...

Ultimately, Paul was handcuffed, searched and detained, eventually being released on the street with a ticket for an equipment violation on his bike. It took them 20 minutes to think of a violation. Somebody is trying too hard!

(He approached the Police on Foot. He was a pedestrian. The ticket is retaliatory. Sgt. Harrington records the incident as "Stopped for Equipment Violation." I later point out that Paul wasn't stopped. He walked up the Officers. On foot. With a bike.)

I head over to the Station and get Lt. Donatoni to the front desk. Paul arrives and brings his bike to the counter with a headlight blazing and asks for the "correctable" ticket to be corrected. Donatoni says they don't do that. We ask who does. He doesn't know.

We ask to file complaints. We argue about the rights of a "detainee" to observers. We argue about the circumstances of the incident that evening. We point out that his instructions to ask for a Supervisor are rejected by his own Officers.

We ask if they also handcuff, detain, search and go through the personal property of other stopped for infractions such as talking on a cell phone or driving a car with expired tags or a burned out tail light. Crickets chirp.

We ask again to file a complaint and we're told to sit down and wait. The clock ticks. Officer Russell #1 and Officer Russell #2 sit at the front counter working on computers. From the clicking sounds, I can only imagine how cool their MySpace pages must be!

It's now way late. We talk about the frequency of the incidents in which cyclists encounter the Police and end up in an adversarial relationship simply for thinking that the streets are ours to ride as equals and that the Police are there to support our rights and our safety.

In February, cyclists delivered the Cyclists' Bill of Rights to the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee, left the building and were riding to Pure Luck from downtown when a Lt. from Rampart pulled the group of 4 over and informed them that it wasn't safe for cyclists after dark. He resented not hearing a thundering round of "Yes Sirs" and informed the group "one of you is going to take a ticket." Nice. Mikey Wally took one for his pedals. He now rides brake-free, pedal-free and guilt-free!

In May, a female cyclist is handcuffed and searched thoroughly for "drugs and weapons" as she stands crying on the street and ends up taking a ticket for "stopping on sidewalk blocking traffic" which is an infraction. (the ticket was poorly written, I think the officer got sidewalk and street mixed up. Not a big confidence builder!)

Now again, on the heels of another Cyclist's Bill of Rights endorsement from the community, the Police step up aggressively and write punitive tickets for what purpose?

It's Hollywood, late at night, there must be lots of opportunities to make this a great neighborhood. I'd suggest they start by supporting cyclists, giving them all of their support instead of aggressive and heavy handed violations of our rights.

I recently visited Piper Tech, the City facility that includes the LAPD's Hooper Heliport and the Police Garage. Here are some pictures that should serve to remind LA's finest that it is crazy out there, our streets are crowded and we need to work together. Give it a break, welcome the cyclists, support the cyclists, get out of your squad car and go for a ride yourself! It'll be good for everybody!

See you on the Streets!

No comments: