Cuffed and Ticketed for No Front Light, 2010 Edition
“I turned left on to a one way street (the correct way) and a cop started yelling at me while I was catching up to the ride. He drove over, started yelling, didn’t allow me to say anything really and then handcuffed me.” – Chris
That’s what you get for riding bikes Chris.
“When I got to the scene I jumped off and asked why my friend was being detained. I asked twice more and the officer told me to come over and then hand cuffed me and put me against the wall.” – Justin
That’s what you get for mouthing off Justin.
In the early morning of July 7th two men were cuffed and searched at 8th & Main in Downtown Los Angeles – detained for more than half an hour by the rank and file of LAPD Central Traffic. When all was said and done they were released with tickets for “no front light”, citations issued by Officer Townsend. A “no front light” citation is correctable – if you put a front light on your bike and present it to a officer of the California Highway Patrol, he or she can sign off on it, at which point the fine drops from about $100 to $10. It’s a fix-it ticket!
So why were these two detained for the better part of the hour and released with slap on the wrist tickets? Put another way, why were two officers and a police cruiser preoccupied for half an hour by such a triviality? Is that an reasonable use of police resources?
Don’t ask that of Officer Townsend. It wasn’t her, but her partner Officer Sanchez who initiated the detention, and insisted on citing Justin and Chris. It was Sanchez who told witnesses that they didn’t have a right to know why he cuffed Justin and Chris, because “they weren’t the ones arrested.” It was Sanchez who allegedly turned off the front light mounted clearly on Justin’s handle bars. It was Sanchez who told Chris that he was ticketing him for running a red light, in contradiction to the citation Chris received.
Sanchez might say that Justin was argumentative – it’s remarkable how often reasonable inquiry is construed as argumentative (and what is cite worthy about argumentative?) by overzealous officers. Even so, even if Justin was, why did Sanchez cuff Chris before Justin even arrived, particularly when by all accounts Chris was quiet and the picture of compliance?
On the other hand, it’s Townsend who could use a refresher on California law. In both citations Townsend wrote “PED” in the vehicle information field, indicating that the recipients were not motorists, but pedestrians. As you might know, pedestrians are not required to have front headlights. So you could question why Townsend wrote citations which apply to cyclists to pedestrians. The citations are, to borrow a phrase of Stephen Box, self contradicting!
This happens again and again. It happened to Paul ages ago in Hollywood. It happened to me, and three others last March. It happened and then some at LA Critical Mass in May. It happens countless times when we don’t know or hear about it. And I mean “countless”; LAPD does not record handcuffings, so we have no sense for how often they occur, or who gets cuffed.
Every person who is cuffed by LAPD becomes a detractor for life of the department. If they’re cuffed for thirty minutes and released with a petty fix-it ticket, that’s an detractor for life who has a convincing story to tell their peers. If they’re cuffed for thirty minutes and released with a petty fix-it ticket which involves potential police misconduct – Officer Sanchez turning off Justin’s light – that’s a detractor life with a convincing story, one that might eventually be told to a jury.
This is all alarming. It all detracts from real police work. And all of it convinces me that it is past time for LAPD to address when cuffing is appropriate.