Beverly Hills Police Department likes to intimidate cyclists for Fun
Is it okay for a law enforcement officer to drive an SUV aggressively towards a group of cyclists who have broken absolutely no laws, at night, with his headlights lights off? Well, this specific Beverly Hills Police Department officer seems to think it was a good idea, heck, maybe it even taught us a “lesson”. About what, I’m still not sure, but please do read on.
Here’s the jist of the story:
At approximately 12:30am on (early) Friday morning, June 6, 2008, three of us were cycling back from a regular Thursday night cross-town training ride known as CubCamp. The group was comprised of Mihai Peteu, Alex Thompson, and Floyd, a newcomer. We were headed West on Charleville at 12-15mph, approaching S. Beverly Dr. Two of us had at least one headlight and one rear light each, and the 3rd member of our group was lacking a headlight. Two police cars were stationed across the street about 500ft away, on the SW corner of the street. The sedan was parked, and the SUV started moving towards us, cutting through the intersection at an angle.
Suddenly, it picked up speed with its headlights off, and broke hard about 20 feet in front of us, in our lane of traffic. The officer then proceeds to lecture us about our 3rd member not having a headlight, issuing us a verbal warning. As the SUV drove away, I noted that it was a Beverly Hills Police Department vehicle, license plate number 1098193.
This was clearly an intimidation tactic, and it scared the crap out of me. Also, even if this is acceptable procedure in Beverly Hills for pulling a vehicle over for a traffic violation, why endanger all THREE members of the group, only when one of us was guilty of a minor infraction?
The following morning I called the BHPD to inquire about the complaint process, and I was able to speak to a watch commander. He stated that the police officer in the SUV did nothing wrong and gave the impression that we should be glad that he only gave Floyd a verbal warning instead of a citation. He agreed to mail me a complaint form.
Alex Thompson and I visited the Beverly Hills Police department on Wednesday afternoon (June 11th) to deliver our complaint in person. We talked to two officers, both which seemed very receptive. We both gave them our accounts of the story and answered their questions in more detail. Sgt. Lincoln Hoshino, the gentleman in charge of our Emergency Personnel Complaint promised to follow up with us soon.
Mid-day on Thursday June 12th, Sgt. Hoshino contacted me by phone and we discussed the matter further. Even though he specifically asked me twice whether the SUV actually crossed into our lane of traffic and I repeatedly answered “Yes”, he was still under the impression that the officer driving the SUV did nothing wrong. He would rather get into the details of how hard I had to swerve to get out of the way and the exact location of the SUV after it broke hard in front of us. Sgt. Hoshino mentioned that patrolling with all lights off is a common thing. He also warned me that they have uninterrupted in-car camera footage, so I should be careful at any claim I make. Frustrated, I asked him to please review that footage in full and ask the police officer that was behind the wheel the same detailed questions that I had to answer. That ended our phone conversation.
My main gripes are being intimidated by a police officer for doing absolutely nothing wrong. Stemming from that is a feeling like I got a little bit of the “group punishment” that cyclists tend to receive. Also, if this specific officer doesn’t reprimanded for his actions, he’ll just think he’s being righteous and will continue to harass cyclists that happen to ride through his turf. This seems to be the case since both a watch commander and the investigating officer do not see anything wrong with driving a Police SUV aggressively towards a bunch of cyclists for no good reason. It’s not even that big of a deal to them, they may honestly see nothing wrong with this because that’s simply how they were pre-programmed to think.
Might not seem like a big deal to some people reading this, but this is just a drop in a sea of institutionalized discrimination against cyclists in large cities across North America. So what’s next people? Hope to see some comments from folks with knowledge of the law, and maybe a few instances of “a similar thing happened to me on these wonderful LA streets when…”