“Everyone is suspect until proven guilty”
Bike stops by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies rarely make the headlines.
They occur thousands of times a year, largely out of the public eye. Only a few have led to bloodshed, but their toll is significant nonetheless. Cyclists and cycling advocates say the practice helps erode people’s trust in law enforcement while doing little for public safety.
Here are some testimonials from arrested cyclists:
Erick Huerta often rides a bike in East LA
He said MPs once mistook him for someone they were looking for – “a Latino man riding a bike” – and, arms drawn, asked him to get off his bike and lift his arms. hands.
“If, at least in a vague way, I match the description of someone they are looking for at the time, that’s an automatic reason to stop me,” Huerta said.
Other times, he said, they casually curled up next to him or other racers he knows and threw probing questions from their patrol car to find out where the racers are going or if they are affiliated with a gang.
“Everyone is suspect until proven guilty,” Huerta said. “They’ve always had that kind of relationship with the community.
Huerta is a board member of the non-profit transportation advocacy organization People for Mobility Justice and teaches bicycle safety courses, which include how to interact with the police during a stop.
“The more information people have at their disposal, the better informed – and prepared – they will be when faced with these situations,” Huerta said.
Tony Pree, 56, has been arrested twice over the years because MPs thought he looked like someone they were looking for.
“They arrested me saying someone robbed a house and raped a girl,” Pree, who is black, said one afternoon in the Willowbrook neighborhood of south LA as he walked home. with a Subway sandwich. “I was okay with them checking me out then because I knew, you know, I want you to find out who this person is.” It sure isn’t me, so I didn’t have too much of a problem with that.
AJ Stiff has worked as a delivery boy for Uber Eats and generally rides in West Hollywood, a predominantly white city.
Stiff said he was arrested this year while making late night deliveries near Santa Monica Boulevard. He received a warning not to have a light on his bike.
He said MPs seemed suspicious of why he was driving so late and asked where he was going. They checked his driver’s license and put his name into a computer system to see if there were any outstanding arrest warrants.
“Everyone here thinks if you are riding a bicycle you are homeless,” Stiff said. “So they were talking to me like I was homeless.”
Stiff, who is black, felt the color of his skin was a factor in MPs’ decisions to arrest him.
“There aren’t too many blacks here to begin with. And I was out late riding, “he said.” I don’t feel like they’re targeting me, but I feel like if they see me, they go. stop me. “
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.