The NYPD’s policy of stop-and-frisk has been at the forefront of this year’s mayoral race with many potential voters wondering where candidates stand on this issue. At the heart of the debate are serious concerns about racial profiling and illegal search and seizers which tend to overwhelming target young people of color. Many people across the city are concerned whether this is an effective approach to stopping crime or merely a campaign of intimidation and harassment. For the last twelve years, the current mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg has taken a back seat to these procedures and deferred to the police commisioner Ray Kelly to implement these polices with little oversight, which is why so many city residents are wondering how the next mayor will handle things. Similar, although not nearly as invasive, is the NYPD’s attitude towards cyclists. We recently discovered the police’s campaign of harassment goes far beyond just random ticketing. Last month the New York Times reveled that the police have been spying on bicycle activist groups, and infiltrating group rides with under covers.
Recently there was a situation where both the profiling of stop and frisk meets the NYPD’s crackdown on cyclists. A double whammy for Jorge Crespo who had a run in with the police and got frisked, ticketed and possibly his wrist broken.
Here is his story:
My name is Jorge Crespo and on Sunday October 6th around 12:00 AM (or so) on my way home from Queens I was stopped by a cop for running a red light (which I actually stopped for and decided to cross since it was 12 AM and there weren’t any cars at the intersection). I was on the Grand Concourse riding north on the service side and the cop van was all the way on the South bound service side (for those not familiar with The Bronx Grand Concourse is a 6 lane Road divided by side walks and barriers at points). The officer felt that this was such a serious offense that he it was prudent to run over the first barrier cut through 4 lanes and then run over another barrier to get to my side of the road.
The officer asked me to pull over and was extremely hostile and offensive as soon as he walk out the van (at one point he even made light of my weight by saying “If you are a biker you should be in better shape”). He told me that “it is the law to abide by all traffic laws when on a bike”. I tried to get out of the ticket by pointing out that it is 12:00 AM, there is no traffic and i did stop for the red even if i did not wait for it to change. The officer did not care about what I had to say and told me to dismount my bike (not sure why I had to dismount my bike to be ticketed when they don’t ask you to dismount when you are on a car and get a ticket) and went on to frisking me and searching my bag (also not sure why this happen since you don’t get frisked or get your belongings tossed around when you get a ticket while driving a car, I guess cyclist are just such a big threat to society that extra precautions need to be taken). While I was being frisked (while wearing cycling clothing, snug and with no pockets) I heard a Sharp sound and when I turn back my bike was on the floor, when I asked the younger cop why he thew my bike on the floor he claimed he did not “Throw it” he merely “placed it” on the floor. I told them “this is a Thousand Dollar bike and it cant be on the floor” and picked up my bike up and leaned it on a parked card.
The older cop told me “you cant tell us how to do our job” and told the younger cop to put it by the side walk where the bike fell again, this time with more force. At this point I am a bit upset about what is going on and try to walk towards my bike to pic it up once more. I was stopped by the older cop who tells me that I need to “Comply” or will be “taken in”. I told him he can give me a ticket after I grab my bike but I guess I was not “compliant enough” because I got cuffed and taken into custody.
My Ride to the precinct was a painful one, my cuffs were extremely tight and my arms quickly started to cramp up. When I told the officer that I was in pain he just smirked and told me “they are not designed for comfort. I was asked for my info and my identity was established and before we even got to precinct 44. The lead officer told the younger one that I was “clean” and to hand me over 2 summons, one for the light and one for not “complying”. Even though my identity was established and I was cleared before even arriving to the precinct I was still placed on a holding cell. I was in holding for a while before the officers decide that they are ready to let me go home. Eventually I was taken out of the holding cell and handed my 2 summons and shorty after my bike.
I am ready to go home now and noticed that my hands are swollen from the cuffs being too tight but don’t pay too much mind to them because I at this point I am more concerned about my bike than anything else. I decide to check my bike for damage before I leave the station when I discover that is really scuffed and dented all throughout the top tube. I spoke to the Lieutenant and filed a complaint with internal affairs for the poor handling of my bike.
The next day I noticed that I have cuff bruises on my wrists (something hard to pull off since I am dark skinned) but I went about my day as always. Towards midday I noticed that my right thumb was numb and I had lost some dexterity on my right hand. I became very worried and decided that I would go to the ER if my hand did not feel normal by the end of my shift. After a few xrays the doctor told me that I have nerve damage and also may have a broker bone on my wrist. As far as nerve damage goes it “should” heal over time but I need follow up and get more xray done in a week or so to see if the bone is broken or not. I am wearing a cast and cant work for 10 days until I follow up and make sure nothing is permanently damaged.
I believe that the amount of force used on me was extremely excessive totally unnecessary and It seems that this sort of behavior is starting to become a bit of a trend when it comes to how the police treat cyclist. I am very actively involved in the cycling community and lately I have been hearing more and more how cyclist are treated like second had citizens and some times even regarded as vandals just for choosing a healthier lifestyle.
I decided that I would not let this just slide and tell my story to anyone who would listen. I don’t want to sound like I want to pick and choose the laws I want to abide by, but, expecting a cyclist to wait 2 minutes until the light changes again when there are no cars on the road is a bit silly. I feel that traffic laws should reflect the difference between riding a car versus riding a bike and certain adjustments should be made since in this case it is obvious that equality does not mean justice.