SFPD hates bicyclists

Remember two months ago when netik was hit-and-run on his bicycle by a car? You know, then incident where we provided SFPD with a photograph of the license plate, several witnesses, and a report from the responding paramedics?

You might be wondering what they did about that.

The answer is absolutely nothing.

John called SFPD, went down to the police station in person and filed a report (case 091-062-114), and after several followup phone calls over the next few weeks was told:

"No action has been taken on your case, but you can call the DMV and get the person's plate if you want to file a civil suit."

Apparently prosecuting hit-and-run drivers is beneath the notice of our police department, and the piece of shit driver who almost killed us both gets off scott free.

Which brings us to this story I came across yesterday:

Streetsblog: A Troubling Story of SFPD Bias Against Bicycle Riders

And now to the very disconcerting part about the police. As I tried to get information from three SFPD police officers on the scene of the crash, two of them showered me with unadulterated disdain for bicyclists and pedestrians. One officer said she thought bicyclists and pedestrians are always at fault in crashes and that they are stupid for not watching out for drivers. She was very upset with cyclists running red lights. She told me the bicyclist was at fault in this crash without any knowledge that a witness was saying the opposite.

Another officer complained that bicyclists should be ticketed a lot more, then he said that he thought San Francisco bicyclists should all be moved to Treasure Island, where presumably they wouldn't be in the way. [...] When it dawned on him that his bigotry might make it into my story, given the bright pink SFPD press badge dangling around my neck, he made a slightly menacing reference to memorizing the information on my pass.

In a follow-up interview today, Corujo said that when he was being interviewed by the officers they seemed to have a preconceived idea of what happened, and were fixated on confirming whether the woman had lights on her bike.

"It seems like they were trying to bias the story to even out the score or something," said Corujo. "I don't know if they were even listening to the idea that [the driver] had made an illegal turn."

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35 Responses:

  1. pfrank says:

    wow what does SFPD do with their time, then?

  2. dr_memory says:

    If it makes you feel any better, the current clearance rate on murder and aggravated assault charges in San Francisco strongly suggest that the SFPD (and DA office) are not actually interested in investigating or prosecuting any crimes whatsoever, so it's not like they're singling cyclists out.

    (This is not actually intended to make you feel better.)

  3. mysterc says:

    That's beyond stupid. I hope they mean no action has been taken YET... Like maybe the investigator for hit and runs hasn't gotten to it. If its just the DA blowing it off then a complaint to the OCC is in order.

    • jwz says:

      His impression from talking to them was that their answer was, "We do not intend to pursue this. Good luck with that."

      • ravi says:

        Thieves broke into my parked car in Bellevue, WA last year. The Bellevue Police, while being very courteous, polite, professional, etc., basically said they didn't have the bandwidth to go after such petty crime (3 other cars in the apartment complex were broken into - at least $1000 worth goods were stolen, at least $1000 worth property damage was caused) ... if that's any consolation.

        • equiraptor says:

          They didn't do anything about the woman who rearended me in a hit-and-run, either. We had enough of a plate to know the vehicle belonged to a rental company, and the vehicle definitely had damage. The woman could have been tracked, if they'd have felt like it.

          The officers I spoke with were always polite. With one even had a nice chat about biking in downtown Houston vs. trails on the outskirts, etc. They just don't have the time to go after the woman who only caused property damage.

  4. chaobell says:

    Well, of course there's a bias against cyclists! Gawd, it's not like they pay taxes or have a legal right to use the streets or cause less wear on those streets or cause less pollution or funnel huge amounts of money they're not paying for gas and insurance right back into the local economy or anything, amirite?


    And even though my bike and my person are both already lit up like a fucking Christmas tree at night, I'm still pondering wrapping the entire frame in some sort of rope lights or Christmas lights or some shit. I want to be lit up so brightly that claiming "hurrr didn't see her" would be tantamount to saying "I am completely and totally blind and have no business driving." I have recurring fantasies of ripping those lights off the peak of the Luxor and affixing them to my handlebars.

    • youngwilliam says:

      Based on my uncle having a couple of instances where the driver said they didn't see him, my aunt has done just this.

      Somewhere, she found some sort of string-light LED thing (it's about as thick as really high-gauge electronics wire or like a cocktail straw) and not only wrapped it around the frame of her bike, but also attached a few lengths of it around the back and front of her jacket (sort of like the white piping in The Prisoner's suitcoat).

      We joke that she'll ironically be cited for distracting traffic with it.

      • nloof says:

        EL-wire, it sounds like. Google for pictures of people's bikes at Burning Man and maybe that's what you want your bike to look like to survive in SF.

        On the bright side: hey, civil lawsuit! That's money in your pockets, right?

    • wisn says:

      A 50 or 80 lamp string of all-weather LED tree lights have a very low power draw. Buy some for a dollar a box at the post-Xmas sales, wrap them around the frame, chop off the power brick and splice them into a battery pack. And then you can be literally lit up like a Christmas tree. With a little extra money you can get a string that blinks sequences and plays holiday music, for extra visibility on the road.

      I half-kid. The drivers where I live are mellow compared to those in real cities, but that still amounts to regular verbal threats against cyclists and routine close calls from drivers whose eyes are glued to their Blackberries or GPSes. Anybody who claims they bike regularly in the U.S. and doesn't have at least one story about being endangered or hit by a car is probably lying.

    • freiheit says:

      Like these? http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.6488

      I've got these on my bike. They take 3 AA batteries, the cable is weatherproof, and the blinking is frenetic. If you'll be riding in rain you may need to weatherproof the battery pack somehow, but I haven't bothered and a little light rain hasn't hurt them yet; there's really nothing in the battery pack but air, a switch, the batteries and some wires.

      That, of course, is in addition to some standard regulation lights (bike and helmet).

      It is worth mentioning, however, that these lights are probably illegal to put on your bike, since the color blue is included. (cars have much stricter light rules. The laws about lights on bikes require (at night) front white, rear red, and prohibit blue flashing; any other lights you add are okay, I think)

  5. mcfnord says:

    Oakland cops are worse.

  6. azul_ros says:

    What utter shite! I used to ride a bicycle for years in between cars in Tucson, AZ. I was an intelligent rider. I've seen dozens, if not hundreds, or idiot bicyclists, riding the wrong direction on the sidewalk. But I was not one of those people. I dated a guy who was an avid long-distance bicyclist so I knew about safety issues. I think anyone who felt discriminated against by the SFPD for being a bicycle rider should file a suit or at least make concerted effort to stand up to such discrimination.

  7. There was an injury, right? That makes the hit and run a felony. Next time your lawyer is over to discuss the ABC, afterwards mix him up a nice drink and ask about the details of a citizen's arrest. Basically, you sign the felony complaint and pass it directly to the DA, skipping the police altogether.

  8. badpauly says:

    I'd hate to promote vigilantism... but...

  9. cameo says:

    I was intentionally rear-ended twice when the car behind me decided i was driving too slow and he wanted me to know that this was unacceptable. I was on Divisidero just blocks from my house when this guy honked, rear-ended me, backed up, hit me again, and finally drove off when I got out of my car.

    I called the cops, went down to the station to file a report with a license plate number, but no action will be taken because the damage to my car was negligible and I was not hurt, but I was advised I was free to report this to my insurance company with the report number.


    • equiraptor says:

      In my case, $11,000 in damages was done. Police still didn't care.

      I'm just glad I wasn't injured (and I had no passengers).

    • tarliman says:

      We had a similar problem in Dallas. We got hit by an SUV that pulled out of a bar parking lot, then tried to run. We pursued them into a mall parking lot and got their license number before they managed to shake us (by driving much more recklessly to evade us than we were willing to do in pursuit). We filed a report with the police, we filed a report with our insurance company. The insurance company paid to have our van fixed - thankfully it was minor and there were no injuries. The police pretty much dropped the matter. As far as we've been able to determine, they never investigated, never paid a visit to the SUV driver, never talked with our witness, nothing.

      Bottom line: If failing to solve the crime doesn't embarrass the department as a whole, in public, the crime will not be solved. The only way to get the police to actually do the job we pay them for is to shame them into it. Funny how they always have time to beat up men in gay bars, though, and harass photographers at historic sites, and generally throw their authority around in a way that causes them to lose the respect of the public.

  10. latemodel says:

    One option for the long view is to start going to the community meetings at Southern Station, because you get face time with the local police captain. You probably will see several of his lieutenants, someone from the city attorney's office, someone from code enforcement, and the local fire captain. While you're at it, you could also, say, express your disgust with that laptop seizure problem.

    Unless SOMA is very different from the mission, you will be the youngest, sanest, and most likely the whitest person in the audience. Bring a friend, too, and you won't sound like the crazy lady at my local one who complains at length about fare enforcement on MUNI every single month.

  11. cavorite says:

    My wife was hit by a truck while she was riding her bike, they intentionally swerved out of their two vehicle lanes into the extra wide bike lane to hit her, luckily they only managed to hit her shoulder with their mirror. The cops did not bother to do much about it at all, even with evidence that possibly had fingerprints on it thrown out of the truck, and the fact that this big truck is missing it's mirror due to the force of the impact. They seemed really uninterested, and their suggestion was "don't ride on the street's" and then one cop told a story about how he lives out of the city (which is a whole different issue for me) and only feels safe riding in his quiet suburban neighborhood. Great job, assholes.

    When someone intentionally aims their vehicle at and hits a cyclist or pedestrian, how is that not the same as someone taking a gun and doing the same to a person?

  12. ocschwar says:

    This is a felony, so if you find they guy, you may be allowed to force the issue by putting him in a citizen's arrest. Check the CA laws on this.

    • pavel_lishin says:

      Practical question: how exactly do you put someone in citizen's arrest? I mean, if someone comes up to me and says, "You're under arrest, come with me," unless they show me a gun and a badge, I'm not going anywhere unless physically dragged.

      • en_ki says:

        Here you go. This reads like you can order them to stop, grab them, and present them to the cops, and if they fight back, it's them on the hook for assault. How this actually plays out in practice is something I'd want to hear from a CA lawyer about, though, before trying it.

        And honestly it's probably sounder to just press charges. Then at some point they'll be ordered to appear in court, and if they don't show up, the next time they get pulled over will be an overnight adventure.

        • pavel_lishin says:

          Yeah. Honestly, unless I saw someone do something atrocious, I'd be reluctant to go through all that. The cops are trained to deal with assholes, and I'd rather walk away unharmed than try to get into a fist fight with someone while screaming "WHAT PART OF CITIZEN'S ARREST DON'T YOU FUCKING UNDERSTAND!"

      • ocschwar says:

        "You're under arrest. Stay here for the police."

    • dasht says:

      At this late date, other than the the word of witnesses, we have only evidence of the car used in the crime - not who was behind the driver's seat. Per the original account jwz got a look at the guy but alas, did not record at the time, any record of what the guy looked like. Good luck making a citizen's arrest without getting bent over on false imprisonment or kidnapping charges.

      Did the police press jwz for a description? If not, shame on them and on jwz for not insisting. If so, maybe a ghost of a chance.

      It gets worse:

      JWZ wrote: "netik has a giant bruise, but isn't hurt badly, and his bike is ok. Knowing him, had this guy stopped and been even slightly apologetic, there probably wouldn't even have been a police report."

      How is that not going to foreclose just about any civil court options that might otherwise have been open? How is that not going to come out in court?

      So good luck in civil court. Maybe there's a chance in small claims but then, likely by default (defendant not showing) and, even then, good luck collecting.

      Good luck also avoiding liable law liabilities to the owner of the registered vehicle. As things stand, there's is probably a balance between the potential liable case and the fact that car was beyond reasonable shadow of a doubt (assuming witnesses prove credible) involved... if it were me, I'd be inclined to leave it there.

      The other day my wife and I were disturbed after bed time by three gunshots fired, less than a block away. 911 took a long number of rings to answer, apparently because so many neighbors called in at once. Their questions: "Did you hear shouting? Did you see or hear anyone running away? Did you see or hear a car speeding away?" No, to all three. No sirens came a blazin' and I didn't even spy an extra patrol car drive-by (though I'd guess there was one I missed).

      I hate to say it but, prima facie on the original bike incident account is plenty of evidence that the driver should prevail in any criminal proceeding and that any civil victory is going to be chump change, at best, a liability loss in a counter-claim at worst.

      "That could have been a lot worse, and the driver had a really rude attitude, and that was in fact a crime," are pretty weak claims throughout the system.

  13. dmablog says:

    I sent the following message to Gavin Newsom from his mayor page:

    I am very upset that the SFPD has taken no action on a hit and run accident on two bicyclists here in the city. I am a bicyclist in the city and am now fearful if I get hit by a car and they were at fault, the people who are entrusted to protect me with my tax dollars, will not pursue any action to apprehend the offender. This is disturbing and will create a disrespect gap between the cyclists and the police department.

    The case that isn't being investigated any further can be found on the victims blog here with all relevant info on the case: http://jwz.livejournal.com/1139721.html

    I look forward to action being taken on this to prevent any more distrust in the people who are sworn to uphold the law.

    • uhhhclem says:

      Whether or not a crime gets prosecuted is not up to the sole discretion of the police. You can (and should) talk to the district attorney's office.

      • latemodel says:

        You are entirely correct. This is part of the reason that I suggested attending the police community meeting: you get police and a guy from the city attorney's office, and that is precisely so that they can focus their attention on things that the community actually cares about.

        • dasht says:

          You are wise. But... there's no description on record of the driver and the damages here are minimal. I don't see how you get from there to a prosecution or even much by way of civil damages.

          The car owner's punishment here is that there's a police record of this incident, in case he or she does something worse later and can be connected to this particular car at that particular time. I'm not sure the police made the wrong choices here, even if they made them while displaying "bad attitude."

          p.s.: I don't own a car and bike pretty much every f'ing day. My household depends on biking. Thankfully, not in downtown S.F. - in Berkeley - but my point is that I have nothing but contempt for this driver and oh how I wish a cop had been closer to the scene of the crime so that the outcome could have been better.