"I thank you for the relationship that you insisted that we develop and that we have developed. The true measure of that relationship will be how we work together on this incident or any others. Police work by nature will have conflict, it’s not whether they occur or not, it’s how you resolve them that is the test.” Chief Charlie Beck
CityWatch, June 4, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 44
More than 90 thousand people have visited YouTube to view the 91 second video of the LAPD arresting cyclists on Hollywood Boulevard this past Friday night, a video that was shot on an iPhone by a cyclist who was then tackled and cited for his efforts, prompting charges of excessive force against the LAPD. Chief Charlie Beck wasted no time in responding to the allegations, attending the regularly scheduled bi-monthly meeting of the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee to address a standing room only crowd, assuring the audience that the he has "taken immediate action based on information received from this community."
As of Tuesday's LABAC meeting, four officers had been removed from patrol duty and reassigned within the station to duties that did not involve interaction with the public.
Chief Beck asked for time, but offered his assurance that the patience of the community would be rewarded, offering up that the very nature of police work involved inevitable conflict but that the true test was how it was resolved. He committed to a transparent process and to employing the Cyclists/LAPD relationships that he had worked to develop since taking over as Chief.
The timing of this incident could not have clashed more with the incredible recent success of the Cyclists/LAPD Task Force, coming on the heels of the development of an online LAPD training program along with the release of LAPD Policies and Directives that support cyclists on the streets of LA.
At the same time, it was the relationships developed during the last six months of work that allowed the community to reach out on a holiday weekend, calling on Sgt. Krumer, Commander Villegas and Assistant Chief Paysinger to grab hold of the incident before it got swept away.
Supporting Chief Beck was a full complement of LAPD heat, including Assistant Chief Debra McCarthy and Commander Andy Smith of the LAPD's West Bureau along with a Lt. and two Detectives from Internal Affairs.
LAPD's Inspector General, Nicole Bershon, was in attendance with staff and made herself available to cyclists involved as victims or witnesses to the Friday evening incident.
Cyclists who were on the Critical Mass ride offered their perspectives as victims and as witnesses.
One young cyclist read the statement of his friend, the 15 year-old who spent 40 minutes in handcuffs for not having ID and was then joined by his mother, school teacher Jenny Swan, who spoke of her desire to support cycling on the streets of LA and asked the LAPD to join her in making LA "The City with the solution!"
As a member of the Cyclists/LAPD Task Force, my initial reaction is to fear that the great work we've accomplished in developing relationships and policy will be set back by this incident but my initial experience allays that fear, instead confirming that we're on the right track and that we'll come out of this in a better place, with better relationships, and with stronger policies.
Several topics came up during public testimony, usually in the form of a personal experience either on Friday night or in prior incidents, and best summed up by the following call to action:
*The Cyclists/LAPD Task Force has met five times since Chief Beck was confirmed and at the first meeting the LAPD was presented with a call to action on several issues including the cuffing policy and the pursuit policy.
Now is the time to firmly address not just the incident that took place on Friday evening on Hollywood Boulevard but to address the larger opportunity to establish a policy on cuffing and pursuit of cyclists.
The LAPD must establish clear guidelines and a policy on the use of handcuffs when stopping a pedestrian, a cyclist, or a motorist on the streets of Los Angeles for minor infractions such as crosswalk violations, lights, rolling reds, and for simple interviews.
The LAPD must document the use of handcuffs, demonstrating that the use of handcuffs is based on clear criteria, not on bias-based policing.
The LAPD must establish clear guidelines on the LAPD pursuit of cyclists on the streets of Los Angeles. The LAPD would never use a patrol vehicle to ram a motorist for a burned out tail light or to address traffic congestion. Why would the LAPD use force to push cyclists when responding to a complaint of “Cyclists on the Street!?”
The LAPD must do comprehensive research on appropriate and inappropriate methods for instructing cyclists to stop, and stopping cyclists who do not stop. Based on that research, and on public input, LAPD must establish a policy for instructing cyclists to stop and stopping cyclists. LAPD must train its officers in these methods.
The LAPD must clearly establish and implement a policy on addressing public assemblies, one that purportedly exists but that seems to disappear when the assembly consists of cyclists.
For the cycling community and for the LAPD, the bottom line is simple:
To judge individuals based on the behavior of others is bias-based policing and it has no place on the streets of Los Angeles. If an LAPD Officer witnesses a motorist running a red light and speeding away, that does not give the LAPD the right to stay at the intersection, using force to detain the next motorist to pass.
Further, to suggest that cyclists were violating the law will never be an acceptable argument or a justification for LAPD actions when THOSE actions violate the law.
To examine LAPD behavior in the context of “The cyclists started it!” is a non-starter. The LAPD is here to hold us all accountable to the law but they aren't above the law and they are never in a position to violate the 1st and 4th Amendments.
(Stephen Box is a cycling advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net)