Four Los Angeles policemen got starring roles in a video shot in Hollywood on Friday night, but their actions earned them desk jobs while the department investigates their clash with bicyclists.
This video shot by a witness shows police officers making an arrest during a critical mass ride on Friday night, then one of the policemen kicking at a passing bicycle.
Several policemen then go to the witness. The camera falls but continues filming while police, carrying nightsticks, order the man to “Get down” and “Get up!”
The video has been viewed more than 91,000 times at YouTube and is reminiscent of a video showing New York cop who pushed over a cyclist at the critical mass a couple of years ago. That officer later quit the department and was convicted of filing a false statement.
In the latest blow-up between police and bicyclists, participants in a Critical Mass bike ride accuse police of pushing over some bicyclists by grabbing their handlebars and in one case jamming a nightstick into the bike spokes. [To see some immediate eyewitness reports, Cyclelicious reprinted some Twitter posts filed from bicyclists at the Critical Mass.]
They were being stopped for not following traffic signals or not having proper lights on their bikes. Bicyclists complained to police of excessive force at a Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting on Wednesday. Streetsblog Los Angeles reported that several asked: “How many car drivers get thrown to the ground by police after a routine traffic violation?”
Setback to relations
The LA Times reports that the city's police chief, Charlie Beck, has been trying to improve relations between police and bicyclists. Policemen must get training in bicycle issues and the department has revised its policies on investigating hit-and-runs.
Obviously, Friday night's actions were a setback. The LAist reported that one police commander at the meeting commented:
“This is one of those high priority cases,” said Commander Andrew Smith, an Assistant Commanding Officer. “Don't give up on the LAPD because we're going to make this LAPD even better than this is right now. We're going to learn from mistakes in the past and do a better job.”
Representatives from the department's internal affairs department took reports from several bicyclists at the meeting.