Dozens of cyclists attended a hearing on police hostility to cyclists at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors last week. They told stories of undercover cops threatening to beat them up after cutting them off on their bikes; of cops refusing to take action against drivers who had attempted or threatened vehicular homicide; and of a systematic refusal to investigate cases where cyclists were injured or killed by drivers.
Before the inevitable, victim-blaming round of "but cyclists are so aggressive and horrible," please read this (tl;dr: statistical analysis of cyclist behavior does not bear out the caricature of the lunatic rider, who is significantly less common -- and less dangerous -- than the lunatic driver cohort).
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.
Victims Share Tales of SFPD Anti-Bike Bias and Hostility at City Hall [Aaron Bialick/Streetsblog San Francisco]
For years, the NYPD and other police departments have justified the highly racialized practice of stop-and-frisk and zero-tolerance approaches to turnstyle hopping, etc, by citing the “broken windows” theory of policing — the idea that if the police stop petty crime, major crime will follow.
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