NYPD and cyclists

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.

On quotas:

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.

3 Comments

  • bikesgonewild
    September 28, 2011 - 2:38 pm | Permalink

    …you are absolutely right, fritzster, it is a fascinating look at the nypd & even cops in general…of which i have a few friends in blue who ride…

    …the one revealing comment in particular, “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…” is kinda scary, in a way because while there is an admirable “stick together” quality there is also the “…whether right or wrong…” addendum that goes with it…

    …essentially ex-officer patrick pogan’s  very foolish actions which took no more than 30 secs, will to some degree forever cloud the relationship between the nypd & cyclists…

  • September 28, 2011 - 3:06 pm | Permalink

    I was thinking about the Pogan incident too, but especially Officer X’s statements about no training on dealing with cyclists.

    You know I’m a slightly uptight, law-abiding kind of guy. I would *never* ride my bike through, for example, a train station, but one day I did exactly that at Diridon Station in San Jose. The station was completely empty, so I coasted through the open doors.

    A part time security guy (old retired guy who probably took the gig for supplemental income) jumped from out of nowhere yelling “WALK YOUR BIKE!” and grabbed my handlebars. Technically, he committed assault, but I’m not going to file charges against the old geezer and, after all, he was right. But still, he didn’t have a *clue* what he was doing and could have caused injury to himself and to me by grabbing my bike’s STEERING MECHANISM.

  • bikesgonewild
    September 28, 2011 - 11:46 pm | Permalink

    …what i find ironic is that i pretty much know that you would have undoubtedly complied with his demand almost  immediately but as you say, he didn’t give you a chance, he just created a dangerous situation…

    …i won’t even speculate on his character…as you say, he was a “geezer”…

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