NYPD officer who’s also a regular bike commuter talks about his job and the perceptions cops have of New York cyclists.
New York City’s Transportation Alternatives interviews “Officer X,” who explains the prejudices police officers have to people on bikes, and why everybody — pedestrians, cyclists and drivers — saw fewer traffic tickets towards the end of last summer.
When asked if New York cops hate cyclists, Officer X says:
No. But a lot of things have changed since the Critical Mass incident in 2007, when that rookie cop pushed a cyclist off his bike in Times Square. Now whenever an officer views a cyclist, he immediately associates them with Critical Mass riders and that incident.
As a cop, you don’t want to see another officer go down like that, even if what he did is totally wrong, and that is going to open up your eyes.
On the relative dangers of bikes vs cars:
You are never taught in the Police Academy how to deal with a cyclist. When you’re doing car stops, you’re taught to expect the worst, and in the field the worst can happen. Tactics are all about the hands: “Let me see your hands.” An officer approaching a cyclist, who can’t really hide their hands, will see that as a safer stop; an easier target. Sure, they may fight, they may resist, but they are very rarely the ones carrying the guns or the major drugs.
You have to understand, when you stop a motor vehicle, there is a voice in the back of your mind: “Am I going to go home at the end of the day? What’s the priority here? Them or me?” With a cyclist, that pressure isn’t there in the same way.
There are no “quotas.” The term is “performance objectives.” They can’t use the word quotas, because it’s illegal, so they come up with stuff that’s similar.
In the same way that there are no “quotas,” there is no such thing as a “punishment” for not meeting your performance objective. But let’s say you wanted to get a good assignment, like being in a sector car every day. You would come in with a certain amount of summonsing activity; if you didn’t, you wouldn’t get that sector car. You might even transport prisoners for a month or sit in the hospital looking after a sick prisoner.
It’s a fascinating look behind the scenes of the New York’s Finest. Read more at Transportation Alternatives: The Sit-down: Behind the Blue Wall with Officer X.