A woman was handcuffed and placed under arrest this morning after she was stopped for running the stop sign at NE Flint and Broadway when she asked the police officer if she was required to show identification. She was subsequently issued a citation and released.
Jessica Jarratt, 37, the executive director of an arts funding nonprofit, was commuting from her Northeast Portland home to her office in the Pearl this morning around 9:00am. In a phone interview this afternoon, she described being stopped by a police officer at Flint and Broadway, along with several other people on bikes, after she had turned right onto Broadway from Flint without coming to a complete stop.
She was pulled over by Officer Felts, who immediately asked her for her driver’s license. “I said, wait, can you tell me why you’re stopping me?” The officer responded that she had run a stop sign and requested her identification again.
Jarratt said that she asked, “Do I legally have to carry it?” and that Felts simply repeated the request. Frustrated, she asked if she could call a lawyer friend to ask about her rights in the situation. “I just didn’t know,” she explained. “And the officer just didn’t engage at all.”
Officer Felts then, she reported, said “That’s it, you’re under arrest.” She says that he “took out his handcuffs and put them on my hands in such a violent way that I still have raised red marks.” He ushered her to the sidewalk and called for backup. Another officer walked over to her and she asked him to loosen the handcuffs — “I was really in pain.” He complied.
Felts came back over to her and said “This is your last chance, will you give me your name?” She gave her name, age, and address. He looked her up in his computer, removed the handcuffs, and let her go free with a $242 citation for failure to obey a traffic control device.
Jarratt said that throughout the incident, “I was very calm, I didn’t cuss, I didn’t say anything I would be embarrassed to have said. I was clearly not a physical threat to this guy. He could have just explained. If he had said, ‘Yes you’re legally required to have an ID,’ I would have shown him one.”
“I want to be totally clear in my story that I did break a law, and I’m willing to pay the fine associated with that,” she said. “My beef is the way that he treated me in the process and his overall approach. I’m definitely going to pay the ticket, and I already filed a complaint, and I also want to do everything I can to send out a message that the Portland police can’t treat people this way.”
You are not required by law to produce or carry identification if you aren’t driving a motor vehicle, local bike lawyer Mark Ginsberg told us, adding that you do not need a drivers license or any other form of identification to operate a bicycle, “or to walk down the street for that matter.” But if a police officer asks for your name, you have to give it.
“I want to be totally clear in my story that I did break a law, and I’m willing to pay the fine associated with that. My beef is the way that he treated me in the process and his overall approach.”
If you do not identify yourself, or if you give a name that the officer suspects to be false, they can legally hold you in custody until they determine your identity. That’s probably what happened here, Ginsberg said. This is different from being under arrest, which would require an officer to read you your rights and allow you access to an attorney. “If they told her she was under arrest and then let her go, well that’s bad practice.”
When we spoke this afternoon, Jarratt was clearly still shaken by the incident. She said the intimidation she experienced was not called for, especially since people on bikes are not, like motor vehicle operators, required to carry an ID card, and may not have been pulled over before or know what to expect from a traffic stop. “I think the whole bureau needs to realize that — especially if they’re going to be going after pedestrians, bicyclists, people who are in a more vulnerable physical situation than in a car.”
Portland Police have held several series of enforcement actions at NE Flint and Broadway in the last year in response to safety concerns. Back in 2007, the city’s water bureau banned its own vehicles from using Wheeler, the street just to the west of Flint, because of concerns about collisions involving bicycles. New pavement markings have been installed along with other safety features.
Elly Blue has been writing about bicycling and carfree issues for BikePortland.org since 2006. Find her at http://takingthelane.com