The Time is Now for LAPD to Take Its Negative Track Record with Group Rides SeriouslyJune 1, 2010 at 11:48 am | Posted in Bike News | 5 Comments
Tags: Critical Mass, group ride, kick, lapd, Paysinger, video
What is quickly becoming the hottest bicyclist story this spring took a quick turn for us here at LACBC. We received a message from Assistant Chief Paysinger of the Los Angeles Police Department in response to the now infamous video of an LAPD officer attempting to kick a bicyclist off their bike at last Friday’s monthly Critical Mass. Bicyclists may remember Chief Paysinger as the official who conducted the second half of the LAPD address at City Hall during the ride to demand justice for Ed Magos, and as the man who initiated the LAPD’s bike-cop program.
In that video, an officer can be seen waiting until the very last bicyclist in the Critical Mass ride to make the kick-seen-’round-the-bicycling-world. The bicyclist appears to be doing nothing illegal. In the background, a group of officers huddles around other riders who are being handcuffed on the sidewalk. As the person taking the video begins to loudly ask why the officer tried to kick someone off their bike, he’s quickly taken down from behind and his camera falls to the floor to reveal two LAPD officers with nightsticks roughing him up.
After a conversation with Chief Paysinger this morning, a few things are clear. Chief Paysinger stated that, “what was depicted on the video is troubling and disturbing and I have personally launched an investigation.” An LAPD press release from Saturday went public with this investigation and Paysinger has told us that the officers involved in the altercation have all been identified. But there is a lengthy discipline process that has now been initiated (the following are notes taken directly from our conversation with Paysinger);
A series of allegations will be compiled based on information gathered from officers at the scene and victims involved. The outcome could go from a verbal reprimand to a dismissal based on the findings. The allegations are forwarded to the officer’s Captain in Hollywood, Capt. B Girmala. She will see if allegations are sustained, then either agree, disagree of modify them. These then go to Superviser Chief Debby McCarthy who will also either agree, disagree or modify the judgment of Capt. Grimala. Then the judgment will go back to internal affairs and everything will ultimately be reviewed by the Chief. We suspect that the inspector general will also be a part of the review process, which could take a number of months. Officers have the right to evoke legal representation which will also delay the process. But this process removes any notion of a lack of objectivity and legitimacy.
While we have faith in the LAPD to complete a thorough investigation, we have been leery as the number of rogue officers committing the LAPD to a continued track record of anti-bicyclist behavior have piled up, even in the face on growing LAPD–Bicyclist relations. Paysinger assured us again that the LAPD is committed to making the changes already promised to bicyclists and that, “if Chief Beck and I say it’s gonna happen, then it’s gonna happen.” The Assistant Chief also told us that an edict was already issued to officers telling them to handle group rides with more respect, but that change in the department is going to take time.
If edicts issued from the Chief aren’t making waves in the LAPD, it’s clearly time for a more serious approach to LAPD’s interaction with group rides. While a specific policy addressing group rides would take time to go through the police commission, and would have to be compiled with bicyclist input, that is an approach that LAPD should be considering. We know of much more amenable Critical Mass–Local Police relations that exist in Chicago, where bike cops often show up to the rides and participate like any other rider—even helping to cork intersections when drivers get aggressive.
Whatever the approach, we’ll be waiting to hear what comes from Commander Jorge Villegas, the officer assigned to speak on the issue at today’s Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting at the Hollywood Neighborhood City Hall at 7pm. The time is now for LAPD to stand up to its commitment to better protect bicyclists in this city, and to address their disturbing track record of aggressively handling group rides.