First off, I would like to welcome all of the new readers who have joined us in the last few days over this regrettable interaction I had last weekend. I would like to publicly thank the Mission Police Station for taking my complaint seriously and acting professionally and compassionately, SF Streetesblog for running the story (I had no idea that would happen and boy has it snowballed) and Mission Mission for jumping in as well. NBC interviewed me and aired the story on last night's 11 o'clock broadcast (edit- see it here and here). I would also like to thank the Department of Citizen Complaints for taking the time to interview me thoroughly and treat me with respect.
I think it is safe to say that the story is getting out there : )
This story hits a lot of nerves for everybody. It is an easy story to take sides on, although which side you take will depend heavily on your viewpoint at the start. For those of us who ride everyday in urban environments I think it is easy to get heated very quickly, and some of the comments I have read out there on various forums reflect that. It is just so tempting to react and say the first thing that comes from the gut.
While this incident occurred on Saturday the 27th, it took me a couple of days to turn in the paperwork to the OCC. I knew I wanted to lodge a complaint, but I wanted to make sure that I did so without any drama on my part- there is enough in the situation as it stands. The same can be said for what I posted here. Before I hit that publish button I wanted to be sure that my motives were about justice and education, not drama and retribution. This is why, even though I had a license plate number, description of the officers, a photograph of the car and witnesses who can back up my story, I did not publish any of that information and kept that for the official complaint- the last thing we need is for anyone to try and confront this guy.
Some of the comments out there are predictably retaliatory. Some of them advocate being confrontational with drivers, and some go as far as to advocate vandalism. None of that is in any way constructive, nor does it do anything to solve the issue at hand. What it does is force people to draw even thicker lines of "for" and "against" that allow people like the officers in question to continue their abusive behavior. They also obscure the problem that caused me to write the story in first place and limit the conversation to "string him up!" and "serves you right" instead of opening up the conversation to how often this really does happen to people in San Francisco (and other places, too) and how we get to the root of the problem and stop it.
I would like to invite people to share their stories here. Have you felt threatened by the SFPD while riding a bicycle in San Francisco? Did you report it? If not, why? (If you would like to file a complaint about an SFPD officer go here) If yes, how did it turn out? I do not want to villainize the SFPD, only to show that there is cause for concern that the powers that be need to recognize and correct. This is especially important for those who have not reported incidents because they felt too intimidated or pessimistic. Many people feel needlessly powerless in these situations, not realizing that while their story may be only a single one, it is a very important part of a larger tale that all of us are living everyday.
For those of you outside of SF, please tell us your stories, too! This is not a problem experienced only in San Francisco and recognition that riding a bike is similar all over the world, both for better and for worse, can only help make things better for us all.
Most importantly, remember that the only way to make a better world is to live a better life. Be what you want to see. Stick up for what you believe. Ride your bike!