Does NYPD Know the Traffic Laws It’s Supposed to Enforce?

We linked to this Gothamist post in the headline stack this morning, and it’s worth pulling out the story of obliviousness from the NYPD bike crackdown. Air Force veteran David Curtis Lettier was obeying all traffic laws while biking to class yesterday, when he was pulled over and cited for an imaginary offense: not wearing a helmet.

Read on and ask whether NYPD’s stepped-up bike enforcement is at all helpful if officers don’t receive sufficient training before going out on cyclist patrol:

I was pulled over today at 127th and Lenox for not wearing a helmet by Officer Purdie of the NYPD. After explaining to him that I am above the age of 13 and I do not/have never/currently wasn’t using my bicycle for commercial purposes I was still given the ticket.

Image: Gothamist

When he pulled me over he asked where my helmet was. I said I didn’t need one by law but I offered to turn back and get the one in my apartment. He asked for my ID and motioned me to approach his passenger window. I gave him my military ID but he still asked for my driver’s license so I gave him that too. I showed him I complied with all state and local laws and that I didn’t see where in the law I needed a helmet. He told me to step away and that he’d double check with his sergeant. Instead, he sat in his unmarked car writing the ticket while talking out his driver side window with what I assume was his buddy. This random guy actually pulled over in front of the unmarked car, got out and struck up a conversation with Officer Purdie. The guy was in civilian clothes.

He motioned me back to the window and said he never heard that riders do not need helmets. He hands me the ticket while I ask what to do about this. Round and round we go until I offer to pull up the law on my phone. First I showed him the article from 2007 from your very own website about the helmet law. He wasn’t buying it and had the tone of “prove it.” Playing the lawyer, he wrote down my source as “Gothamist” in his ticket book and had me spell it out. It was then that I said forget that and pulled the law from the NYC.GOV website and had him read it.

His tone changed once again explaining he couldn’t take back the ticket as if it was written in stone handed down by the mayor himself. He repeatedly tried to get his sergeant on the phone as he kept fumbling with the blackberry each time removing the battery for some odd reason. Having read the law he now backtracked explaining he didn’t know if I was working or not. I explained there were only books in my book bag showing him my school ID. I had told him earlier that I was on my way to class which I was now late for.

In the courtroom of commonsense, if he did truly suspect that I was working, he could of pulled me over, asked if I was working, saw that I wasn’t, and went on his day. In reality he, I guess, truly believes all cyclists must wear helmets and thought he had his first catch of the day?seeing as though targeting law abiding cyclists was his only assignment for the morning. I was illegally detained, wrongly ticketed, and now must waste the City’s time proving there wasn’t any violation.

Streetsblog has a request in with NYPD’s public information office to see whether officers assigned to bike detail receive any training about how to enforce cycling infractions.