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Posts from the "Police Misconduct" Category

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Saudi Arabia on the Hudson: NYPD Officer Stopped Cyclist For Wearing Skirt

When Jasmijn Rijcken, the general manager of the VANMOOF bicycle company, traveled from Amsterdam to New York in late April, she was excited to see what she’d heard described as a city that had embraced bicycling. It wasn’t NYC’s new protected bike lanes that defined her ride through the city, however, but the New York Police Department, currently in the midst of a major crackdown against cyclists.

Jasmijn Rijcken was stopped and almost ticketed by an NYPD officer for biking in this outfit. Her skirt, the officer said, was too distracting for drivers.

Rijcken was in town for the New Amsterdam Bike Show on April 30. After she had dismounted on Broadway in SoHo, an NYPD officer stopped, berated, and threatened to ticket Rijcken for wearing a skirt while cycling, which, it must be noted, is entirely legal and common. Rijcken says the officer told her that her skirt was dangerous because she would distract drivers and potentially cause them to crash.

“I was standing there next to my bike, looking at my map, and then this police guy stops and starts telling me about my skirt,” reported Rijcken. “At first I thought he was making a joke or maybe even a compliment, but then I found out he was serious because he got really mad.”

The officer got out of his car and threatened to ticket her, said Rijcken, even though, it bears repeating, there is no law against biking in a skirt. The justification for a potential ticket was the danger her exposed skin posed to everyone on the street. “That was the bottom line, that I was very dangerous,” said Rijcken. “I think every woman, even when walking in a skirt, would be dangerous then.”

According to Rijcken, the cop’s words were not merely an empty threat. He took her ID and only began to back down when he saw that she was Dutch. She hurriedly explained that in Amsterdam, it’s common for women to bike in skirts. In the end, the officer told her she should change into pants and let her go.

At the time, Rijcken said, she wasn’t sure that she hadn’t broken the law. “If you’re by yourself in a different country and a police guy comes really angrily at you, you get scared,” she said.

This is not the first time an NYPD officer has stopped cyclists for completely frivolous non-offenses. In April, a private school administrator received a ticket for biking with a tote bag on her handlebars. The police have not responded to a Streetsblog inquiry about Rijcken’s allegations.

Her harassment at the hands of the police has colored Rijcken’s perception of not only New York City but the United States. “I was shocked,” she said. “In Holland, people refer to America as the country of freedom.”

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NYPD Bike Blitz Cheat Sheet Tells Cops to Enforce Bogus Traffic Laws

An NYPD bike enforcement cheat sheet instructs police officers to issue tickets for traffic laws that don't apply in New York City. Full image: PDF

Sometime between the ticket one cyclist received for turning right on red into Central Park and the ticket another received for riding with a bag slung over her handlebars, it became abundantly clear that NYPD’s “Operation Safe Cycle” is not really about safer cycling. Instead of applying the NYPD’s vaunted data-driven policing techniques to encourage safer and more courteous cycling behaviors, the department’s bike blitz seemingly consists of harassing cyclists and slapping them with large fines for the most minor transgressions.

In some cases, the fines are for non-existent violations. A cheat sheet circulated by police [PDF] indicates the department isn’t even limiting its bike enforcement to the offenses on the books.

According to reliable sources who obtained the sheet from police, the document was distributed by NYPD in February to assist officers in the bike ticketing blitz. The cheat sheet includes three violations that don’t apply in New York City, even though federal judges have made it plain to the NYPD on more than one occasion that such citations are bogus.

The sheet tells cops they can issue tickets for violating sections 1234 (a), (b), and (c) of the state’s vehicle and traffic law, which require cyclists to either ride in a bike lane or along the right side of the road, to ride no more than two abreast, and to come to a stop before turning onto a road from a driveway. None of those rules, however, apply in New York City.

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NYPD Traffic Cop: “My Objective Is The Cars, Not The People”

This officer's job isn't to keep you safe, it's to keep cars moving. Photo: Mike Spriggs via Flickr.

The NYPD’s decision to crack down on cyclists committing even the most minor infractions — while an epidemic of deadly driving continues unabated — should make it clear that the police department is no friend to those on two wheels right now. A report we received today from Christine Berthet, the co-founder of the Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety, offers evidence that the police aren’t too concerned about the safety of those on two legs either:

Today at 10:30 a.m., I was waiting to cross the street at the intersection of 42nd Street and 9th Avenue.

A large construction truck was barreling west on 42nd Street where the traffic was light. The pedestrian signal turned to “walk” on the south leg. Instead of stopping the truck, the agent waved it to turn south, which it did at high speed, while the pedestrian platoon had already engaged in the crossing. People jumped back to avoid a collision but it was very close.

I approached the agent and mentioned respectfully to him that he had waved a truck at full speed into a platoon of pedestriansand that pedestrians expected to be protected by the police, to which he responded: “My objective is the cars, not the people.”

This is far from an isolated instance, but still, to hear it so bluntly put and seeing it nearly kill five people in a deliberate way is shocking.

So this is what our society has come to: In New York City , the most pedestrian city in the United States, we pay the police to protect cars, not people.

As the NYPD continues its assault on bikers, it is important to highlight that they are doing a horrible job of protecting pedestrians. The car owners have successfully pitted pedestrians against bikes, we need to refocus the press and everyone on pedestrians/transit users against cars.

I’d love for Vacca and Vallone to have a hearing on that.

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Two Drunk-Driving Cops Crash Cars In Two Nights

A drunk off-duty police officer slammed his car into a police vehicle in Park Slope three weeks ago. In the past two nights, two more off-duty cops crashed their vehicles while driving drunk. Photo: Joanna Oltman Smith

Drunk off-duty New York City police officers have crashed their vehicles each of the last two nights.

On Wednesday evening at around 6:20 p.m., the Daily News reported, officer Christine Mazarakes smashed her car at the corner of 81st Street and West End Avenue. Mazarakes, who is stationed at the Upper West Side’s 24th precinct, was charged with a DWI and suspended.

The following night, Detective Thomas Handley flipped his car over while driving on the BQE at around 11:30. His injuries were somehow only minor, according to the News, and like Mazarakes, he was charged with a DWI and suspended.

The pair of drunk-driving crashes caused by New York’s finest comes a few weeks after a similar crash on Brooklyn’s Fifth Avenue. On March 15, Officer Sergio Gonzalez was arrested for driving under the influence after crashing his car into the back of a cab, speeding away from the scene of a crash and then hitting a police car further down the street. Two hypodermic needles were found in Gonzalez’s car, according to the Park Slope Patch.

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Pogan Verdict: Jury Finds Ex-Cop Guilty of Cover-Up, Not Guilty of Assault

The Post reports that the jury has reached a mixed verdict in the trial of Patrick Pogan, the ex-NYPD officer who was seen by millions of YouTube viewers slamming his shoulder into approaching cyclist Christopher Long during a 2008 Critical Mass ride, sending Long to the pavement. Pogan was found guilty of falsifying records when he filed a criminal complaint alleging that Long assaulted him. He faces up to four years in prison for that conviction.

The jury found Pogan not guilty, however, of misdemeanor assault charges. Got that, NYPD? Go ahead and knock people off their bikes, just tell the truth about it afterward and you'll be okay.

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Video: NYPD Efficiently Deploys Officers to Clip Bikes on Houston Street

Via Gothamist, here's the Time's Up video of police in the act of sawing bike locks on Houston Street last Thursday, in preparation for President Obama's motorcade. Gothamist reports that a lawsuit may be brewing over the massive seizure of bicycles, which police held at the 7th Precinct for owners who were lucky enough to know where to go and could find their property.

Yesterday police officials told the City Council that they just don't have the resources to open up life-saving street safety information to the public. But, from the looks of it, they still have sufficient manpower to put 10 or more officers on bicycle confiscation duty.

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Security Overkill Strikes Again

Maybe it was the NYPD's revenge for the disgracing of rookie cop (and detective's son) Patrick Pogan, now on trial for his brutal takedown two years ago of Critical Mass cyclist Christopher Long. Or perhaps it was just the latest manifestation of the post-9/11 security state, in which everything -- parked bikes, basic mobility, even human life -- is sacrificed on the altar of authorities' notion of safety.

I'm referring to the report from the blog This is FYF that earlier today police broke the locks on hundreds of bicycles parked along Houston Street and tossed the bikes onto flatbed trucks:

Citing security concerns that bikes might be secret pipe bombs, NYPD officers broke the locks of hundreds of bikes along Houston Street this morning in preparation for President Obama's speech at Cooper Union. The bikes were unceremoniously put in the back of the truck. There was no prior notification of the bikes needing to be cleared along the route by NYPD and onlookers were not given information as to what would become of the bikes.

holden_ghost_bike.jpgThe ghost bike in memory of Constance Holden. Photo: WashCycle
The New York City police department is no stranger to mass bike confiscation: In 2005, police blowtorched locks on bikes parked along Critical Mass routes as part of a long-running harassment campaign that included summonses and arrests of suspected participants. Today's action will probably be defended under a different and more universal rubric: security at all costs.

Earlier this month, security at all costs helped take the life of veteran journalist Constance Holden, who atop her bicycle got in the way of an 11,000-pound truck driven by a National Guardsman in the security detail for the Washington, DC Nuclear Security Summit. (Note the three uses of "security" in that sentence.) Holden, an experienced urban cyclist not known for flouting authority, had just left her office at Science magazine on her homeward 3.5-mile bike commute when the truck struck and crushed her.

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NYPD Celebrates Earth Day With Massive Houston Street Bike Clipping

NYPD_bike_clipping.jpgPhoto: Anthony Rebholz/This is FYF

Via Gothamist, local blog This is FYF posts this scene from Houston Street earlier today. Apparently, with President Obama due in town for a speech at Cooper Union, NYPD jumped at the chance to drastically overreact by confiscating New Yorkers' personal property. We haven't been able to confirm with the public information office yet, but This is FYF says police cited "security concerns that bikes might be secret pipe bombs" as their excuse:

NYPD officers clipped the locks of hundreds of bikes along Houston Street this morning in preparation for President Obama's speech at Cooper Union. The bikes were unceremoniously put in the back of the truck.  There was no prior notification of the bikes needing to be cleared along the route by NYPD and onlookers were not given information as to what would become of the bikes.

NYPD's penchant for equating bikes and cycling with security threats is, historically speaking, a recent development. If they were doing this stuff forty years ago, Governor Rockefeller might never have made it to his Earth Day speech in Prospect Park.

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NYPD Slams Doored Cyclist with Two Summonses, Lets Driver Off the Hook

While riding home from work on the morning of March 22, Rodney Seymour was doored by a truck driver. When the police responded to his 911 call, instead of ticketing the doorer, they hit Seymour with two summonses for improperly equipping his bike. 

RodneySeymour.JPGRodney Seymour, after being doored and ticketed, and before having his bike stolen.
Seymour says he was biking safely, heading home from work in the direction of traffic and wearing an orange reflective vest and helmet. After crossing 10th Street on Third Avenue, heading north, he got doored by a box truck driver, falling onto his shoulder and head. "I was in a little pain and the truck driver suggested I call the cops," said Seymour. "He was very cooperative."

A fire truck and ambulance arrived first. The EMTs took Seymour's vitals, gave him an ice pack and suggested he wait for the police to arrive so he could make a report. An accident report is necessary in order to get the doorer to pay a victim's medical bills under New York's no-fault law, said Mark Taylor, Seymour's attorney.  

When an officer from the Ninth Precinct arrived on the scene, Seymour found him more interested in avoiding paperwork than helping an injured cyclist. "He got very upset because I was insisting on having a police report," said Seymour. He recalled the officer yelling, "You want a report? You want a report? I'll give you a report!" (The Ninth Precinct has not returned Streetsblog's requests for comment.)

The officer then walked back to his vehicle, Seymour said, returning ten minutes later with the report in hand. But that wasn't all. He'd also brought over two summonses.

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Eyes on the Street: NYPD Chivalry Is Dead on 34th Street

NYPDBuslane1.jpgThe officers who parked here apparently aren't the type to help old ladies cross the street. Photo: ddartley/Flickr
Thanks to tipster ddartley for the latest chapter in NYPD's ongoing mistreatment of bus riders on 34th Street. Yesterday, eight cruisers from northern Queens (precincts 110, 111, 112, 114 and 115) sat parked in the bus lane between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. During evening rush hour. You know, we're starting to think there may be a pattern here.

This time, the police stepped up their game, blocking the bus stop itself and forcing elderly passengers to disembark in the middle of the street. Since shame can't keep police from inconveniencing bus passengers, maybe a physically separated busway on 34th will do the trick.

More pics after the jump.

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