Victims Share Tales of SFPD Anti-Bike Bias and Hostility at City Hall

To the surprise of nobody:

When Sarah Harling was hospitalized by a minivan driver who made a left turn into her at a stop sign intersection, she says the SFPD officer who filed the police report included a fabricated statement from her claiming that she "approached the stop sign without stopping."

Harling said she tried to submit a response to the numerous "factual errors" in the police report, but an officer at SFPD's Richmond Station "raised his voice to lecture me about how traffic laws apply to cyclists too, how he'd never let his children ride bikes in the city, and then told me repeatedly, 'I'm not telling you you can't leave this here, but you just need to understand that sometimes things get lost.'"

"I left the station in tears," she said.

Harling later hired an attorney, who collected witness statements and a photo, which showed the driver to be at fault and led the driver's insurance company to settle for his or her maximum amount of coverage available.

"To say that the San Francisco Police Department failed to investigate my crash is not quite accurate. Rather, they refused to. Repeatedly," said Harling. "I got the message, again and again, that because I had been riding my bicycle, it was my fault."

Previously, previously.

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13 Responses:

  1. nooj says:

    Is Cali a one-party state when it comes to recording conversations (audio and/or video)? It's high time to get hard evidence of police misconduct.

    • David Konerding says:

      You may record police with both audio and video if you respect a few basic guidelines. This was recently debated at the highest level, and it's been verified as a First Amendment right. If you choose to exercise this right, I strongly suggest you spend a good deal of time understand the grounds under which you can exercise it. See
      http://www.copblock.org/35412/tips-for-recording-police-interactions/

      Note that there is a lot of "reality" you should also respect when you choose to record. I wouldn't suggest getting up in a cops face with a cell phone cam and insisting it's your right to film a situation.

  2. nooj says:

    Also, we should push the Board to recommend all officers have their entire shifts A/V recorded and FOIA-requestable, unredacted.

    • mcdavis says:

      "I'm not telling you you can't make this FOIA request, but you just need to understand that sometimes things get lost."

      • Chas. Owens says:

        More like "I am sorry, but our backup system seems to have corrupted that day." Backing up to /dev/null is fast and what could go wrong.

      • nooj says:

        Shit like this should get people sent to prison. Cops would be more than happy to send me to jail overnight for being "uncooperative."

        > "I'm sorry, our backup system seems to have corrupted that day."
        "I'm sorry, someone needs to go to jail for a day."

        • Dan Lyke says:

          There is much established precedent that destruction of evidence and obstruction of justice are only felonies when suspects do it.

    • cthulhu says:

      I've seen some studies recently (although my google-fu fails me now) that indicate such A/V recording improves police officer conduct and community relations.

  3. k3ninho says:

    We have a sizeable campaign in London to warn cyclists not to be in the blind spot of a vehicle turning across your path (in London, left side of a left turn; SF, right side of a right turn) at traffic lights and junctions, which is the mayoral office/city hall supporting its pro-cycling message. However, the prejudice from drivers and the reluctance of police to support prosecutions means that vehicular manslaughter of a cyclist is often a short 15-month suspended sentence -- which itself shows that the UK justice system rates cyclists as recklessly endangering their own lives.

  4. Marten Veldthuis says:

    So glad that Dutch law basically states that if there is a collision between cyclists and motorists, the motorist is always at fault.

    Not perfect either but a motorist isn't going to break things by crashing into a bicycle, so it feels like a more sane default.

    • phuzz says:

      As I was walking through town the other day I had to wait at a crossing while two lanes of traffic went past. The lane closest to us became empty and some lady pushing a bike, rather than wait for the crossing light to go green just pushed her bike out so she was now blocking one lane of the road. When a car came along she got very annoyed that she had to move back, out of the road so that it could pass.
      I was impressed that the driver just looked at her incredulously, without giving her the finger/swearing/gesturing etc.

      DISCLAIMER: many people who use the roads are dicks, be they in cars, on bikes or on foot.

      • jwz says:

        "I saw someone on a bike do something bad once", seriously, again? Your disclaimer means nothing. Welcome to the killfile.