Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on January 29th, 2009 at 4:02 pm
“…approaches are sometimes different, and misunderstandings likely because we are all human — regardless of whether we wear a stretchy bicycle jersey or an itchy police uniform.”
— From a public statement issued by the City Attorney’s office as part of a settlement reached in the Ainsworth Incident
Traffic citations given to two men who were ticketed for riding on NE Ainsworth Avenue back in November have been dismissed.
The case went in front of a Multnomah County traffic court judge at 1:30 pm this afternoon and, instead of arguing over who was at fault, all parties in the incident have signed onto an “Open Letter to the Community” (read it below, download here).
Reuben Vyn and Peter Welte were stopped by Officer James Pryce of the Portland Police on November 16th. Pryce said the men were impeding traffic, but Vyn and Welte, along with numerous witness accounts said otherwise. They claim Officer Pryce came within inches of them as he passed by on the narrow street and that he only turned around to cite them after one of the riders — in response to the close call — gestured and yelled at the officer.
Reuben Vyn and Officer Pryce. Peter
Welte, who took this photo, was also
After the incident, Vyn and Welte sought legal representation from Portland lawyer Christopher Heaps (who you might remember as the guy who successfully pursued a Citizen Initiated Citation back in 2007). After researching the case, Heaps determined the citations were unjustly issued and he approached the City Attorney’s office to ask that they be dismissed.
Reached via email today, Heaps had this to say about the outcome,
“We are delighted. Our fundamental goal was dismissal of the citations, and we achieved it. But beyond that, somebody at the City heard our message and demonstrated that the City understands the importance of its role in creating streets where all our citizens feel safe riding. We are indeed fortunate to have such enlightened leadership in Portland.”
“The Police Bureau will address this problem by producing a training video for all patrol officers and hopes members of our community who frequently ride bicycles will help the Traffic and Training Divisions with the presentation.”
— From the public statement
Beyond simply a dismissal of the citations, all the parties involved in the incident have signed a public statement. The statement was drafted with assistance from Officer Robert Pickett, who co-chairs the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and has also become a liaison on bike issues between the community and the Portland Police Bureau.
Signed onto the letter are Deputy City Attorney David Worboril, NE Precinct Commander James Ferraris, Acting Commander of the Traffic Division Bryan Parman, Officer James Pryce and riders Vyn and Welte.
Here’s an excerpt from the “Open Letter to the Community” (written on City Attorney letterhead, emphasis mine):
…While our goals of a stronger, safer community are common, approaches are sometimes different, and misunderstandings likely because we are all human — regardless of whether we wear a stretchy bicycle jersey or an itchy police uniform.
The traffic stop on Northeast Ainsworth Street involving members of the Portland State University Cycling Club and a member of the Portland Police Bureau elicited strong, human reactions from all sides. Our community’s law enforcement officers and bicycle riders can probably benefit from a discussion of these situations — from both perspectives.
The undersigned Club cyclists are dedicated to following the rules of the road. They appreciate the progress that has been made in clarifying and refining the City of Portland’s bike law enforcement policy but are concerned that not all police officers understand the City’s police and goals. They know that, when there is confusion in the minds of diligent bicyclists between what they understand to be City policy and what they are told by an officer who has stopped them, it can make the traffic stop an unnerving upsetting occasion. The cyclists ask for predictable and consistent enforcement of the rules of the road.
The Portland Police Bureau…acknowledges that some officers have not mastered all the biking laws and the City’s interpretation of them. There’s a particular risk among officers who are not assigned to full-time traffic enforcement. The Police Bureau will address this problem by producing a training video for all patrol officers and hopes members of our community who frequently ride bicycles will help the Traffic and Training Divisions with the presentation.
The statement goes on to share the perspective of officers at a traffic stop and how they expect people will “express themselves” at traffic stops but asks that, “citizens cooperate with officer’s efforts to manage these scenes and keep them safe”.
Deputy City Attorney David Worboril told me on the phone today that this settlement was reached because “we decided it was in the best interest of everyone involved.” Worboril also said that he’ll be managing the training effort and video creation project from here on out. A new bike law training video is expected to be completed and in use by spring. “Our hope is to have it ready and being played at roll call (a meeting before officers begin their shift) before the biking season is in full swing this summer.”
Stay tuned for further developments.