Saturday, September 06, 2008


Charges against dropped cyclist dropped

In case it didn’t make national news, and you didn’t see it on YouTube (or here, when I first mentioned it): about six weeks ago, New York City police officer Patrick Pogan shoved a bicyclist off his bike at a Critical Mass bike ride. The cyclist, Christopher Long, was arrested and charged with assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. But then a video surfaced on YouTube, evidence that Officer Pogan was... hm... how to put this delicately?... well, lying through his bullying, power-abusive teeth. Watch the video, then come back here. Note the two officers standing in the middle of the street, as the camera moves to the left, about 16 seconds into the video. Note the various cyclists veering around them. Note that about 22 seconds in, one of the officers starts walking to the camera’s left, eyeing one of the cyclists.

Then note that at 25 seconds in, the cyclist rode directly at the officer and tried to hit him with his bicycle. Um. Well, that’s what Officer Pogan wrote in his report. My mistake, sorry. I meant that you should note that the officer, with no apparent provocation, charged at the cyclist, who, despite trying to avoid contact, was violently shoved off his moving bicycle.

In light of the video, and while the police are investigating the situation, Officer Pogan has given up his badge and gun, and has been placed on desk duty. I should say. It’s a good thing he didn’t have a Taser.

Meanwhile, the charges against Mr Long are being dropped. I’m glad to hear that, though I wonder how the result could possibly be otherwise, given the video, and can’t imagine why it took this long for that to happen. Mr Long is planning to sue the city, and a civil rights lawyer (not Mr Long’s) is calling for the city to prosecute Officer Pogan:

“I think they should give serious consideration to bringing perjury and assault charges against the cop,” Mr. Siegel said. “This is the way to get accountability over the police and reduce police misconduct. If you make this officer an example, then the message is: This kind of conduct is unacceptable and there will be legal consequences for it.”

For the police officers’ part, many of them complain about the Critical Mass rides, saying that the riders are rude and confrontational, and that they ignore traffic laws (that do apply to cyclists as well) and impede traffic. Moreover, the group has made a point of being sufficiently loosely organized that there’s no official way to address the situation other than by ticketing or arresting individual riders, which is not how the police department would like to handle it.

I have sympathy for those arguments, and I’m sure there are participants in those rides who are, indeed, nasty to the police. As police officers put it, some of the cyclists intentionally provoke them. I wish they wouldn’t do that.

That said, I also have to note that police officers are not feral animals raised by wolves. It’s their job to hold firm against provocation, and not to become abusive, and the behaviour that the camera shows of Officer Pogan, regardless of his reason for it is unacceptable. We have to be very strict about holding police officers to the level of trust we’ve placed in them.


W.M. Irwin said...

Sometimes I hear stories about how police officers are very protective within their profession, even to the point of covering up for each other. That officer who assaulted the bicyclist and then lied about it did the opposite: he tarnished the reputation of every honest, hard-working policeman or policewoman, who now has to deal with increased suspicion and distrust from the general population.

Laurie said...

While we were out of state a few years ago, one of my step-son's friends was arrested outside our house. She failed to report for a court appearance (misdemeanor drug charge, I believe), and had a warrant out for her arrest. As far as I know, there was no police brutality involved, but eight cops showed up to arrest one not very smart 18 year old girl.