(Image: Google Street View)
The City of Hillsboro and two of its police officers may head to trial this fall over a largely unreported 2012 incident in which the officers Tasered a 39-year-old Hillsboro man and kneed him into the ground after he allegedly rolled through a “don’t walk” light on his bike and then refused to give his name.
The interaction escalated over the course of three minutes from an evening traffic stop to a Taser-assisted takedown of a man who by all accounts had never attempted to physically harm the officers, though he did pull away from them when they tried to restrain and tackle him without warning.
lawyer, Edie Rogoway. Also pictured is his wife Vivian.
Rogoway said the couple received matching bicycles
as wedding gifts from her sister’s family.
Two police officers involved in the incident, Ofc. William Blood and Ofc. Brian Wilber, said the man with the bike, Jermaine Robinson, at one point seemed to be preparing to pedal away against Blood’s order.
Robinson’s lawyer said both he and a witness have denied that he ever moved to leave. Robinson also says Blood, the detaining officer, refused to tell him what violations he was accused of.
Blood said that he told Robinson about the violations the moment he emerged from his car, overhead lights flashing behind him, to approach the man on the Tualatin Valley Highway sidewalk.
Robinson was half a mile from his house.
Blood also said that after deciding to take Robinson into custody for refusing to identify himself, Blood didn’t start by telling Robinson to cooperate, because he didn’t want to “tip him off and give him an unfair advantage in preparing for a physical confrontation.”
Instead, Blood said he began the arrest process by locking a handcuff around Robinson’s wrist while the man wasn’t looking. According to Blood’s report, Robinson responded by jerking his wrist away and preventing the two officers’ attempts to wrestle his hand behind his back. Robinson “barely budged,” according to two police officers, as they then attempted to knock him to the ground.
As Robinson remained in place, apparently still straddling his bicycle, a second officer drew a Taser and fired at him, sending Robinson to the ground. As Robinson struggled to rise, the police report said, the second officer fired the Taser again and the first officer tried to subdue him by kneeing him in the back.
Robinson was charged with resisting arrest and other charges and taken to jail.
During the takedown, Robinson’s lawsuit says, he received “serious physical injuries including a herniated disc in his lumbar spinal region, which will require surgery followed by intensive rehabilitation.”
At Robinson’s eventual criminal trial, in May 2013, a jury found him guilty only of a pair of traffic infractions: biking without lighting and crossing the street against a traffic light.
The incident and criminal trial don’t seem to have drawn media coverage at the time. But the event reentered the public eye last June when Robinson filed a federal civil suit against the city and the two officers who’d stunned him with a Taser gun.
The federal civil suit finishes its discovery phase today. Unless a judge throws the lawsuit out in the coming weeks, it’s likely to go to trial this fall.
Robinson, the man who was biking, is black. The involved officers are white. Robinson’s lawyer in the civil case, Edie Rogoway, discussed the case this week on her client’s behalf. The lawyer for the officers and city, Gerald Warren, didn’t respond to two calls over the last month.
This article is based mostly on Robinson’s June 2014 civil complaint and on two other public records, previously unreported: the initial incident reports from the police officers involved and the officers’ July 2014 response to the civil complaint.
The incident began at 10:17 p.m. on Friday June 15, 2012, when Robinson was pedaling eastward on the north sidewalk of Tualatin Valley Highway, about half a mile from his house.
Rogoway said in an interview Monday that her client had been out to exercise, something he often did with his wife Vivian.
“He had a regular course that he did almost every night,” Rogoway said. “It happened to be that one night where she was tired and didn’t want to go.”
According to the incident report by Ofc. Blood of the Hillsboro Police Department, Robinson was biking without a front headlight, which is illegal in Oregon. Blood was westbound in his patrol car at the time, stopped at a westbound red light and facing Robinson.
Also in the patrol car with Blood was Kristi Allen, a civilian whose husband, according to Rogoway, had been a childhood friend of Blood’s. Allen’s husband had ridden along with Blood on a recent shift, Rogoway said, and she was following suit.
According to Blood, Robinson stopped with his bike on the sidewalk at the northwest corner of Tualatin Valley Highway and SE 13th Avenue, looked around (including at Blood’s car), then proceeded across the crosswalk even though he should have had a “don’t walk” signal phase. (Robinson later maintained that he didn’t see any “don’t walk” signal, Rogoway said.)
At that, Blood flipped on his car’s overhead lights, pulled over and got out of his car. Robinson, he said, rode up to him and stopped.
“I explained to the male why I was stopping him, initially citing his not having a headlight and not obeying the traffic signal.”
— Ofc. William Blood, in a police report about the first moments of his meeting with Robinson
Here’s Blood’s version, in his police report, of what happened next:
As I walked up to the male, I saw he had a disgusted/angered look on his face. The male stared at me initially with squinted eyes and furrowed eyebrows. I told the male “Hi” and asked how it was going. The male did not reply to me other than giving an unintelligible grunt. I explained to the male why I was stopping him, initially citing his not having a headlight and not obeying the traffic signal.
In his subsequent legal complaint, Robinson said this last part, informing him of the violations, never happened, or at least that he had not heard it at the time.
Blood’s account continues:
The male was slightly shorter than me (I am 6’1″ tall) and appeared to weigh about 200 pounds. As the male was wearing shorts and a tank top, I could see he appeared to be in very good physical condition. The male had a noticeable muscular build.
I asked the male if he had identification, and he said no. I asked the male for his name. The male stared at me and in a matter of fact tone said, “You don’t need my name.” Given the male’s apparent agitated mental state, his instant defiance, and lack of cooperation, I asked for a second unit respond to my location. I told the male I did need his name because I was stopping him for multiple traffic violations which could result in a citation. In a mixed tone of anger and disbelief, the male said, “A citation?!?!”
I told the male yes. I told the male again I needed his name. The male continued to be defiant and said I did not need his name. I told the male, “I am ordering you to give me your name.” Again, in a mixed tone of anger and disbelief, the male loudly said, “You’re ordering me?!?!?” I told the male he could give me his name or be placed under arrest. The male said, “For what?!?” I told the male he was interfering with my duties by refusing to give his name.
It’s not clear, from Robinson’s subsequent and less detailed legal filings, whether in the moment of being approached by a police officer who got out of his car to approach him, Robinson might have failed to register the officer’s initial explanation of why he was being detained, or whether Blood might have failed to explain it.
Whatever the case, Blood’s account of this exchange is consistent with Robinson’s later account that “Blood refused to respond to Plaintiff’s inquiry as to why he was being questioned and detained.”
Here’s the next part of Blood’s account:
I asked the male yet again for his name. The male said, “I’m leaving.” The male stood up on his bike and started to pedal.
This is one of the key facts under dispute. Blood’s civilian passenger, Allen, was sitting in the car watching the incident, and during Robinson’s criminal trial offered a different account of the story.
“She said that she had a clear view of the entire incident,” Rogoway said in an interview Monday. “When asked if Mr. Robinson attempted to ride away, she very firmly said no, he had his feet very firmly planted on the ground and his hands planted on his handlebars.”
Allen couldn’t be reached by phone this week. A call to a Washington County resident with her name wasn’t returned.
“I grabbed hold of the male’s left wrist and told him to stop. The male immediately tensed his arm, creating a very rigid muscle tone and angrily said, ‘Don’t touch me!'”
— Ofc. William Blood, on his first physical contact with Robinson
Here’s more from Blood’s account, from right after Blood says Robinson seemed to be preparing to bike away:
I grabbed hold of the male’s left wrist and told him to stop. The male immediately tensed his arm, creating a very rigid muscle tone and angrily said, “Don’t touch me!” The male had stopped his efforts to pedal away, so I broke physical contact with him. I told the male he was not free to go.
At this point, I got on the radio and asked my cover to “step it up.” When I broadcast this, it was my intent to communicate to cover officers I needed an expedited response. Given the male’s aggression and defiance, i did not feel safe to conduct an extended radio transmission about his hostile behavior.
At this point, the second Hillsboro officer, Brian Wilber, arrived. Here’s a passage from his report (throughout which he refers to Robinson as “Johnson,” apparently in error):
Upon my arrival I observed the suspect Jermaine Johnson sitting on a bicycle on the east side of the intersection. Officer Blood was holding Johnson’s left arm. As I exited my vehicle I heard Officer Blood tell Johnson he wasn’t free to go. Johnson placed his right foot on the peddle and his right hand on the handle bars. Johnson attempted to ride off. Officer Blood was able to stop him and Johnson stood back up with both feet planted on the ground.
Back to Blood’s account:
With Ofc. Wilber now on scene and the male stopping his attempts to leave, I asked him yet again for his name. The male told me he was not giving it to me. I told Ofc. Wilber, “hands on” to indicate I was going to take the male into custody. I did not directly tell the male to put his hands behind his back because I did not want to give him the chance to bring his arms around to his front and/or prepare for a fight. I felt that given the male’s hostile, angry and defiant demeanor, giving him the simple command of “put your hands behind your back” would tip him off and give him an unfair advantage in preparing for a physical confrontation. I believed this due to the male trying to ride off and becoming instantly angry/rigid when I put my hands on him to stop him.
“I felt that given the male’s hostile, angry and defiant demeanor, giving him the simple command of ‘put your hands behind your back’ would tip him off and give him an unfair advantage in preparing for a physical confrontation.”
— Ofc. William Blood, on his decision to abruptly handcuff Robinson rather than inform him that he was under arrest
The male was focused on Ofc. Wilber. The male’s left hand was down to his side and his right hand was on his bicycle handle. I removed my handcuffs, took a hold of the male’s left hand and simultaneously put the handcuff on his left wrist. The male immediately tensed up and became stiff/rigid. The male aggressively tried to pull his left wrist away from me, physically moving me in the process. Ofc. Wilber attempted to move the male’s right hand behind his back. I told the male to bring his right hand behind his back and to stop resisting.
Robinson did not do so, Blood reports.
I feared a physical confrontation with the man was imminent. Ofc. Wilber and I, two people, were unable to manipulate or control the lone male. We could not even move him. I did not want a physical confrontation to spill onto the highway where he or we could be struck by a vehicle. I saw the male was still straddling his bike. I felt the safest option at this point was to try to take the male to my left (away from the highway) and down to the ground. Even with the male stiff and rigid, I felt with the element of surprise and him being on his bike and possibly off balance, I could get him to the ground.
I still had a hold of the male’s left wrist, as I had a handcuff attached to it. I jerked the hand down and to the side in an effort to bring the male off his bike and down to the ground. This only irritated the male, who stiffened up further and barely budged. I was shocked this did not even knock the male off balance.
Ofc. Wilber told me to disengage so he could deploy a Taser. I stopped my effort to take the subject to the ground but still held on to his left wrist. I did not want to give up control of the male’s left wrist and allow him to essentially have a weapon by using the handcuffs attached to his hand. Although one end was attached to the male’s end, the other hand would have been dangling free and could have been used as a striking device to injure myself or Ofc. Wilber.
Ofc. Wilber drew his Taser, turned it on and pointed it at the male. I heard Ofc. Wilber tell the male to put his hands behind his back or he would be tased. The male failed to comply with the command to put his hands behind his back. I saw Ofc. Wilber was about to deploy the Taser. I let go of the male’s left hand just as Ofc. Wilber deployed the Taser, striking the male. The male fell over to his left, going down to the ground.
After the male fell, I went down to the ground with him, the Taser still cycling. I regained control of the suspect’s left wrist/arm. Ofc. Wilber came to the ground, too. After the Taser had stopped cycling, the male instantly combative again, trying to bring his arms in, rolling on the ground, and trying to sit/stand up. It was obvious to me Ofc. Wilber and I were not going to be able to take the male into custody by ourselves.
At this point Blood radioed a “code three,” a request for multiple officers to respond with lights and siren.
As we were on the ground, the male’s right hand made a straight, distinctive dive motion towards his waistband. Fearing the male was going for a weapon, I reached down to his hand and knocked it away. Around this time, Ofc. Wilber deployed the Taser a second time. I heard Ofc. Wilber scream in pain, leading me to believe he received part of the Taser application due to the large amount of Taser wires strewn on the ground. I did not know immediately how much of an effect Ofc. Wilber suffered. The male was continuing to resist by pulling away. I told the male to stop resisting. The male was on his left side, his back to me. Using my right knee, I delivered a single knee strike to the middle of the male’s back in an effort to stun him and get his right arm to relax. This knee strike proved futile.
That was essentially the end of the struggle, however, as several more patrol cars began pulling up. The encounter to this point had taken about three minutes.
Here’s Robinson’s summary of what had just happened:
Defendant Blood refused to respond to Plaintiff’s inquiry as to why he was being questioned and detained, and when Plaintiff asked if he was free to leave, Defendants Blood and Wilbur violently grabbed Plaintiff and threw him off his bicycle. Plaintiff was then Tasered twice by Defendant Wilbur, thrown to the ground, and hit with a knee strike in the back by Defendant Blood, causing Plaintiff to sustain serious injuries.
Robinson’s lawsuit charges that Blood “intentionally engaged in profiling of Plaintiff, based on his race” and “treated Plaintiff differently from similarly situated Caucasians.”
In their answer to Robinson’s lawsuit, the lawyer for the two police officers and for the city denied this entire paragraph without further elaboration.
“The amount of force used was at all times justified and an appropriate response to plaintiff’s resistive behavior,” the defendants’ answer went on. “The defendants at all times had probable cause to believe plaintiff had committed violations and/or crimes for which his detention and arrest were consistent with Oregon and United States law.”
A nationwide search on Wednesday of criminal records for Robinson, by the site Intelius.com, turned up two incidents: one case of failing to display a driver’s license and the 2012 resisting arrest charge, of which he was later acquitted.
Rogoway, Robinson’s lawyer, said the prior incident had happened in 2006, when Robinson had been pulled over while driving a car owned by his brother-in-law that had expired license tags.
Robinson’s lawsuit charges that Blood’s and Wilbur’s actions were “malicious, deliberate, intentional, and embarked upon with the knowledge of, or in conscious disregard of, the harm that would be inflicted.” It also charges that Blood “intentionally engaged in profiling of Plaintiff, based on his race” and “treated Plaintiff differently from similarly situated Caucasians.”
As for the City of Hillsboro, the lawsuit charges among other things that “Hillsboro Police Officers have made other similar false arrests, and The City has expressly encouraged or acquiesced in this unlawful behavior; has ratified said conduct through the internal affairs process; and/or tacitly encouraged or acquiesced it by failing to train, supervise, or discipline its officers, thus evincing deliberate indifference to Plaintiff’s constitutional rights.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensation for damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs.
In a brief interview last month, Hillsboro spokesman Patrick Preston repeated the statement he issued to The Oregonian for a brief article last June:
We are aware of the litigation. The allegations do not describe the manner that we, as a city, serve our community. We welcome diversity here and we have established a culture of respect and customer service.
Publisher’s note: In 2008, Portland Police Bureau officers tackled and Tasered a man who refused to stop for a plainclothes police officer while biking without a front light. The man, Phil Sano, was charged with resisting arrest but was ultimately found not guilty. See all our coverage of that incident here.
Correction 4:40 pm: A previous version of this post inaccurately described the Sano incident immediately above.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.
Yeah, I see this kind of police treatment of white people texting while driving all the time.
Those Hillsboro officers should come over to the Pearl. They’d have dozens of cyclists to choose from to cite for similar “offences.”
I saw someone driving at 10pm with their lights off yesterday. Fortunately, two police cars rammed the car to prevent it from driving away, as is protocol.
Biking while black will get you tazed and beaten and arrested, but if you’re white and you kill someone with your car there are no repercussions.
From the article:
“I went down to the ground with him, the Taser still cycling.”
“Ofc. Wilber deployed the Taser a second time.”
From the wikipedia article, linked below:
“Taser International has stated in a training bulletin that repeated blasts of a taser can ‘impair breathing and respiration’.”
“Where originally Tasers were only used when officers or the public were being threatened with a weapon, Tasers may and are being used without warning to surprise suspects before being arrested.”
“It has been proposed that the Taser should only be used in a situation in which the use of a firearm is an absolute must, to which a person would choose to act with a Taser instead of a firearm.”
Anyone on BP been stopped by police for missing lights? What was your experience like?
I had a cop flash his lights at me and my friend who were riding without lights. He quickly said “get some lights!” and drove off. He didn’t even stop, let alone taser us.
I forgot to mention; I’m a white male and my friend is an interesting mix of nationalities, but appears more or less like a white male.
not for missing lights but for being in the bus lane in the rose quarter transit area, which ironically is now a 2 way green painted bike lane. It was a very negative experience, put in handcuffs in back of the squad car after he called for backup (for a 130 lb 5’5 female simply sitting on an old steel frame 5speed), he, the officier also lied in court and said I had tried to leave. They refused to believe my work id which was on me (state employee at the time) but insisted on searching my saddle bags for a “driver’s liscense”. They then threatened to take me downtown to book me in to “verify my id” if they couldn’t search, and since the stop had made me late for work since this was during my morning commute back in 2003), I gave in to the intimidation. Just on principle I never carry my driver’s liscence while biking now. My only mistake was stopping in the first place, won’t do that again. Btw I am brown skinned if that matters.
Wow. I’m sorry you were treated so harshly.
“Btw I am brown skinned if that matters.”
It sure seems like it mattered to the cops who abused you. I don’t know a single white person who’s been treated that way for such a minor infraction/mistake.
Yes, actually, I have. I had been at a friends house and was riding home after a couple beers and didn’t have a front light. I was pulled over by an officer (using his sirens) and given a verbal warning and let go. I am a white male.
Nothing nearly as bad, and not for lights, and not in Portland, but I was stopped while cutting through a Salem City park (on a paved driveway, not on a deer trail or across the playing fields or anything) after hours (hours which were not posted at the entrance I used, but which everyone “should know”). The officer’s first words were not of greeting or asking me where I was headed, or even what I was doing out so late (on my way home from my restaurant job at the time), but to inform me that the park was closed, I was trespassing and subject to arrest “right now”. In response to my flabbergasted stammering, he gave me a stern mini-lecture, and sent me on my way telling me that he didn’t ever want to see me there again. The handful of times I’ve been stopped while driving, I’ve never been told I could be arrested “right now”. Maybe driving infractions are less serious that inadvertent trespassing on public property?
How is this news Michael? This whole article reads like a witch hunt. There doesn’t yet seem to be any solid evidence of excessive use of force or profiling, it’s just one person’s word against another. Yet you drafted a sensational and rather inflammatory article. That’s not what this city needs.
How is this not news, especially in light of recent events? How is the article sensational and inflammatory? What sentences are, in your opinion, most objectionable? Or is it the subject matter that is sensational and inflammatory?
I agree that it’s one person’s word against another, although there was another witness and she did not fully corroborate the officer’s version of events. I wouldn’t read too much into that; eyewitness and participant testimony is horrendously unreliable even when made in good faith.
If there’s one takeaway from the recent events dominating headlines, is that cops can and do lie in their reports and under oath. How often they do it is subject to a lot of speculation and is basically unknowable since most interactions are not recorded, and an officer’s strategy may depend on the availability of other evidence.
Some anecdata: I’m white, or close enough as makes no difference. I break the law in front of cops all the time. I work in a building that’s situated so that I can save several minutes by riding on the sidewalk against a one-way street (West of the river where riding on the sidewalk is illegal), and crossing against a red light to a median strip. Cops have a little station in the Smart Park right there, plus it’s close to a Trimet stop, so there are frequently transit cops around.
The vast majority of the time, the cop ignores my illegal behavior. Twice, after I safely crossed a red, a cop has yelled out of his car that I was breaking the law and that he’d give me a ticket next time he saw me doing it.
I’m sure these kind of ignorings and warnings occur with people of color as well. I suspect that even in Portland, they occur with less frequency than with white people. It’s hard to say without statistical evidence that I don’t have. Just a hunch.
It’s definitely possible that either or both men are lying. It’s also possible, from my read, that both men are describing the same incident truthfully from different perspectives. The only real areas of disagreement are whether Robinson started to ride away without actually riding away (what exactly is the line between putting a foot on a pedal and “starting to pedal”?) and whether Blood ever told Robinson what he was being stopped for (which is something it’d be pretty easy to forget your exact wording on while approaching a stranger in a tense situation, and also something it’d be pretty easy to forget a stranger said right after he unexpectedly pulled you over late at night).
As for news value, it’s news for us because:
1) This is a potentially large bike-related constitutional law case against a local jurisdiction. That’s pretty unusual.
2) There’s a lot of reason to believe that the threat of being targeted by police (or other people) is a major and disproportionate barrier to biking rates among people of color. For example, 100% of African-American Portalnders in a CCC focus group in 2009 cited this as a factor that deterred them from using bikes.
3) This is part of our eternal and ongoing coverage of the different standards of judgment applied to people who commit traffic infractions while on bikes and those who do so while in cars.
4) It’s very similar to the Sano case that we covered extensively a few years back.
All of these would be news factors whether or not every word of Blood’s account is accurate. This is why almost all of this article was devoted to republishing the most complete account available: Blood’s.
It’s news because most of the bicycle safety laws (lights helmets etc) are “enforced” significantly more on people of color.
We desperately need more minorities at the table in bicycle seats. But it’s a hard sell for many reasons, this being one of big reasons.
And for some of us, it’s an important aspect of the potential impact of the “safety vest” legislation.
BTW—“I’m not black, but there’s a whole lotta times I wish I could say I’m not white.”
oh, now I get it. He’s black…
Makes you wonder what kind of training these police get. The concept of de-escalating seems foreign to them…it’s all about “if you meet resistance, apply overwhelming force.”
And plan to surprise them with it to get the upper hand according to Blood’s accounting. That sounds like offense, not defense to me.
Houseless people are also frequent victims of this type of brutal treatment by law enforcement. And while it might come as a surprise to some, not at all houseless people are bike thieves.
Honest question, I’ve never seen the word houseless before. Is homeless now considered ‘insensitive’ ?
Home is where your heart is?
Houseless is, of course, a terrible term because an apartment is not a house.
A home is where I can replace the worthless old mercury vial and and metal spring thermostat with ANYTHING more modern that works, OUT OF MY OWN pocket without fear of getting evicted.
Home is where the heart is perhaps?
If Michael doesn’t like your reply … off to the bit bucket it goes …
I see it right above?
congratulations Capitalism, you’ve made safely crossing the street an offense punishable by mob beating.
This is not a witch hunt! We have a huge disproportionate response here – you cross against a light and suddenly you’re on the ground, tazed, in handcuffs, with a back injury???? WTF! I submit that this would NEVER happen to me – an Asian female.
Because you’re not required to carry ID to walk or bike, it’s always been my preemptive strategy if stopped while walking or biking to say I don’t have my ID and to walk/bike away. They can’t cite you if they don’t know who you are. Sounds like this guy had my exact same strategy but it MAJORLY backfired on him and in a way that it would NEVER have backfired for me. I can guarantee you that if this had happened to me, I probably wouldn’t have even been stopped or if I had been stopped, I would have been given a warning for my own safety and allowed to pedal off in peace.
This poor guy has been seriously wronged. I hope the City of Hillsboro pays through the nose for what they did to this guy and that they have to take a lot of training on how to treat everyone BETTER.
“…it’s always been my preemptive strategy if stopped while walking or biking to say I don’t have my ID and to walk/bike away. They can’t cite you if they don’t know who you are.”
I wouldn’t consider that a very wise strategy, especially if they have cause to cite you. From http://www.stc-law.com/refusal_identify.html
“For now, citizens do not need to carry identification. And pedestrians need not identify themselves unless charged with a traffic citation or crime. If cited or charged with a crime, the person must correctly identify themselves for purposes of service of the Uniform Traffic Citation or face arrest for a Class A Misdemeanor for giving False Information to a Peace Officer. ORS 162.385. Thus, while no identification papers must be carried by a person, it is, nevertheless, a misdemeanor crime to fail to correctly identify oneself when being cited.”
You don’t have to carry ID to ride a bike or walk; however, police may legally detain you to ascertain your identity (provided they have reason to – but they’ll almost always be able to come up with or fabricate an answer for that).
And in this case the officer had two valid reasons to cite Mr. Robinson. As an aside, why would anyone bike without ID? What if you were involved in a serious accident? Would you still be proud of asserting your rights while lying unconscious in an ambulance and providing no way for officials to quickly notify your family?
oregon and federal law- you do not need I.D. to walk or bike.
“why would anyone bike without ID”
many people don’t have an ID…
Define many. I’m willing to bet it’s an incredibly small number of people that are in that situation. $45 gets you a Oregon State ID card.
Even less would get you a Road ID, and while not an official government identification, it would probably save you time by helping to back your claim of who you tell the officer you are. Personally I think it unwise to refrain from identifying yourself to the police, because right or wrong, they are taught that you are under obligation to identify yourself, and it’s a given that they escalate situations until they achieve conformance.
Not that I’m justifying the scale of the response here, mind you… it just doesn’t seem wise to me to refrain from a police officer’s request – was the thought that somehow he was just going to apologize and let you go simply because you refused to give him your name?
“I’m willing to bet it’s an incredibly small number of people that are in that situation. $45 gets you a Oregon State ID card.”
One of the reasons I made sure to get my non-verbal son a TriMet Honored Citizen ID card as soon as he was old enough. I didn’t like not having easy proof that he’s my kid.
“They can’t cite you if they don’t know who you are.” That is an incredibly, incredibly poor assumption. Please familiarize yourself with the law before attempting to work out a loophole. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_and_identify_statutes#Recommendations_of_legal-aid_organizations
This really isn’t cycling news. Oh the guy happened to be on a bike…big deal. What purpose does this article have except to incite some sort of hatred towards the police? Where is the inform and inspire here?
This write up left me both informed and inspired. In fact, this *is* a big deal. Great reporting, Bike Portland!
1) This is not a “bike-related constitutional law case,” this is a simple civil trial. Just because racial profiling is mentioned by the plaintiff does not mean the case rises automatically to a civil rights case.
2) Can you provide a link to that CCC study? 100% of African Americans said that being targeted deterred them from biking? That seems like a really odd statistic.
3) Not sure why this illustrates anything about differential treatment for traffic infractions. This illustrates, if anything, what happens if you refuse to cooperate with officers when they ask for your name. There may be a racial component here, but I think you’re really stretching to make this into a cars vs. bikes issues. The only way you could make it that is if you had a comparable traffic stop–say for violating a right on red or having a broken headlight–and the car driver refusing to give any information to the officer etc etc.
4) How is this like the Sano case? In that case, the main claim made by Sano was that he did not recognize that he was being stopped by police officers because it was dark, they were in dark uniforms, and his glasses had fallen off. There is no such claim being made here.
Hey, someone else here who has reading comprehension. High five.
This guy was tasered/beat down for resisting arrest. How much force is appropriate against someone who is not actually threatening a police officer, but also doesn’t go along with getting cuffed? That’s a conversation worth having.
This guy was not tasered/beat down for proceeding against a “Don’t Walk” signal. That’s why he was stopped. The distinction is important because you can find yourself stopped by the cops for an infinite number of reasons.
He was found not guilty of resisting arrest. So, no, he wasn’t, at least not according to the court.
Agreed, which was refreshing to read. My usage of “resisting arrest” is from the perspective of the officers.
Hey Paul, on whether this is a con law issue, I should be more precise: It’s not just a matter of settling liability, it’s a case that hinges in part on whether Robinson’s constitutional rights were violated. The complaint linked above cites his 4th Amendment protection against excessive use of force and his 14th Amendment rights to due process and equal protection.
On the CCC study, here’s the link; see p. 17. The exact wording was “Drivers are going to be hostile toward me.” 100% of African American focus group members and 0% of others brought this up. I agree: startling finding.
I think an article framed around the violations of the 4th and 14th would have worked well here. But my point was that it’s hardly bike related. I worry that you’ve twisted this into a bikes vs cars topic when it’s not. I’ve come to expect that from Joseph Rose, but not BikePortland.
If someone in a car had refused to turn their engine off, refused to cooperate, etc, I would expect the same result.
Exactly…I think Jonathan and Michael are reaching for something else here. But it sure as hell is not about cycling. I may be white as alabaster but I’m pretty certain my unwillingness to comply regardless of mode of transportation would land me the same roughing up. Sad Bike Portland is resorting to this.
You really think you’d be treated the exact same way? You think the cops would look at you and, if you’re frowning, assume you’re going to try to swing a handcuff at them and smash their face? You’re fooling yourself.
Yes. The police would be happy to deliver a beat down if I resisted. You think maybe this Robinson guy hates the police and was just asking for a fight? It is possible you know.
Your chances of being put in a position to even “resist” are many times less than a black man. Again, if you think you’re as likely to experience police violence as a black man who acts EXACTLY the same as you, you’re fooling yourself.
Anecdotal, for sure, but I know a guy who was high, fought with several cops and ended up in the hospital. Except he wasn’t hurt, they just took him there to detox, then released him after throwing his drugs out and citing him with disorderly conduct. He had to take an anger management class. What color do you think his skin is?
I’m a white male who displays unwillingness to cooperate whenever confronted with police action. It comes across in the form of vacant stupidity- when a cop tries to talk to me my iq immediately drops about sixty points. I don’t lie or argue but I sure as hell don’t help them with their job. Or whatever it is they’re doing. And I can absolutely assert that this has never gotten me handcuffed, drop kicked, tazed or pepper sprayed.
While it doesn’t have any relationship to this specific incident, I’m a cyclist and Hillsboro resident, and I can relate my one contact with Hillsboro police as at least another viewpoint for BikePortland readers.
It happened in the summer of 2013 and I was coming back through downtown Hillsboro after a long ride. I was super hungry and tired and just wanted to get home. I rode up to the light at 1st and Lincoln EB on Lincoln. I sat for almost 5 minutes and the sensors didn’t pick me up. I was a little lazy and didn’t want to un-clip to click the ped crossing button, so when it was completely clear I rode through the red. Still a little annoyed at the wait I then rolled the stop sign at 2nd as well (I normally do a full track stand at stops, though don’t put a foot down), that’s when I heard the siren chirp behind me. I pulled to the curb, un clipped and stood beside my bike. The mid 20s white male officer got out and asked me how I was doing (probably to gauge my demeanor, like in the articles incident) I said “pretty good, just headed home when I hit that dead red” assuming he saw me roll that on red. He replied “I was coming up behind you and saw that, but I know some bikes don’t trigger it, and saw you waited, I actually stopped you because you ran the stop as well.” I then made sure my tone expressed my mea culpa and explained how I normally treat stop signs and that I was just tired and annoyed.
Interestingly he made some small talk for a few more seconds until some pedestrians who saw me run the stop went out of sight, then said, “Well, can I just get your name to run you for any outstanding issues?” Taking that as a cue that I was getting off with a warning I gave him my name, and within 3 minutes was back in my way with just an admonishment. Ever since I’ve been a lot more carefull, and have even gotten officers give me a wave or a nod around town. The city even fixed the sensitivity on that light and I can trigger it by skimming the loops with my cleat now as I appoach the light.
Generally, in years of riding city and rural roads, I feel that LEOs in WaCo are pretty accommodating of cyclists, and definitely not on some type of “crackdown”. I think a big part of my short and non-confrontational experience was my demeanor though, which I took care to be relaxed and easy going. I’m sure if I’d have looked physically tense or been surly, at the very least some expensive citations would have been the result. I’m pretty sure he had even decided to give me just a warning even before seeing my face, he just wanted to stop me to reassure the others around that they take stop sign runners “seriously”, and that I wasn’t going to be an ass about it.
There are good and bad cops everywhere, and I firmly believe that the police should have specific training in de-escalating situations rather than upping the level of control and force, but anytime you encounter the police in day to day situation like a traffic stop, if you keep calm and make their job easier, you tend to get it back in return.
“I feel that LEOs in WaCo are pretty accommodating of cyclists, and definitely not on some type of “crackdown”. I think a big part of my short and non-confrontational experience was my demeanor though, which I took care to be relaxed and easy going.” … and white?
Thank you, 9watts and daisy. I exercised considerable restraint to keep my mouth shut.
Nope sorry, but it was predictable someone would push that point. I meant situations for cyclists specifically related to cycling behavior. Race relations, profiling and entrenched attitudes in law enforcement across the nation are MUCH bigger social and civil rights issues that society in general is grappling with and which desperately needs solutions for.
I also was sensitive that in a civil-rights sense the “just avoid trouble with the police” is advice that every black mother unfortunately has to teach her sons to avoid situations they may lose their life in. Again, my advice in easing tensions in a police contact were for bicyclists specifically and regardless of race, age or gender.
But your story, whether or not you meant it, implies that this guy did something wrong, which resulted in the beating.
Since I’m pretty new to Oregon laws, can someone clarify for me the basis of this stories issue?
1) is it the law that you have to provide identification when asked by an officer? if not what is the point in which it is required to produce identification?
2) is a cop required to state why he is stopping you?
Is there no dash cam evidence in this case? why not?
I realize it’s pretty much his word against his and that there are underlying racial issues with this story. And I absolutely think there is a double standard when it comes to what color your skins is as to when you get harassed by cops.
But in California it is required by law that you have ID on your person at all times while in a public place or road. Also it is required by law that a cop must state why he is stopping you and that it must be a real or current legal reason for stopping a citizen. I.e a cop can’t just walk up to you and ask for ID.
This will get you started: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_and_identify_statutes
Here’s what Ray Thomas has to say about it:
And here’s the ACLU’s take (scroll down to “Stop and Detain”):
I found these “case studies” (from the last reference) interesting:
– Retaining ID will convert a mere encounter into a stop, but asking for the
person’s name/DOB will not.
– Directing or ordering a person will generally convert an encounter into a stop, whereas asking will not.
Also, from the ACLU:
“The period of detention for violation stops may last no longer than is necessary in order to identify the person believed to have committed the violation, to conduct a reasonable investigation into the circumstances, and to issue a citation.”
I thought being required to “carry ID” was unconstitutional. Being required to identify yourself to the satisfaction of an officer who has some legal reason to require such identification is a different thing. If I can verbally communicate my name, rank, and serial number to an officer who can verify it on his computer, that should be enough for when I am just out in public not participating in any activities that require a license.
>>This really isn’t cycling news. agree
>>What purpose does this article have except to incite some sort of hatred towards the police? Where is the inform and inspire here?
>>>purpose ? click bait
quality of BP.O seems to be declining lately. duck.
If it includes a cyclist (which it very clearly does) then it is cycling news.
Remember that “to protect and serve” means it is the law that cops respect ALL citizens not just the white ones!
It is also very clearly harassment of a cyclist and is a current and relevant problem as a cyclist today. Cyclists are very clearly treated as 2nd class citizens when it comes to rights of the road and it goes double for non white cyclists!
So yes this is very relevant and is a serious issue that needs to change, its called “white privilege” ask any black person, they’ll tell you all about it!
Maybe it’s the cycling component of this story that is not news or that it’s overshadowed by the subsequent events that took place to be ho-hum in the minds of some contrarians here. I’m no apologist for police beatdowns. I am not feeling particularly incensed that someone got pulled over for a minor traffic infraction. I don’t think this story would have been different if the same guy rolled a stop sign in his car. I think there’s a decent chance a white guy behaving the same way would have a better chance of walking away without the herniated disc in his back, but not necessarily a certainty.
A person on a bicycle is stopped by cops. That’s a bicycling issue.
A black man is stopped by cops for a minor traffic issue, and the situation quickly escalates. That is a civil rights issue playing out over and over again in this country.
A black man on a bicycle is stopped by cops for a minor traffic issue, and the situation quickly escalates. That’s a bicycling and civil rights issue.
Michael and Jonathan, thank you very much for covering this. It’s absolutely important news, and you’re doing the right thing.
Well said! Thank you.
Interesting conflation of nationality with race/ethnicity.
Sort of amazing that this story comes out just as I met today at my office with an PPB officer. He came by to chat about a ticket he gave me for a minor traffic violation a few weeks ago.
What has happened since is an amazing example of the privilege I enjoy as a white man with certain stature in the community. I am debating how and if to write about this in greater detail.
Suffice it to say, what has transpired since my ticket reinforces to me quite strongly how starkly different people’s experiences with the police are in this country.
While all that may be true, did the officer ask for your identification when you were stopped, and did you give it to him/her?
I’d bet, your personal experience had a lot to do simply with your cooperation and willingness to identify yourself.
Actually I didn’t cooperate and was only asked for my ID so he could fill out the citation.
Handing over ID is cooperating. Not cooperating is not stopping, not talking, not providing any information.
For those that don’t think this is a bicycle issue, please follow my links above, and google search for pages of other examples and studies.
If the goal is to get ridership numbers even hinting at those of places like Copenhagen, we need more minority riders of all colors, and harassment of minorities is a major issue both by civilian and police poulation. I have freinds that the first thing they do when they get a new car is tint the windows because it makes profiling by police more difficult when they drive.
And the truth is that “white” isn’t going to be a majority population real soon in this country. It wont be possible to get ridership numbers up significantly without minority participation.
And a big part of this equation, that no one is really mentioning is that the safety laws (helmets, and lights, and potentially reflective vests soon) are a major contributing factor to this type of racial profiling. Easy legal excuses where the laws often misunderstood to disrupt someone simply riding a bicycle.
It is a bike issue and a civil rights issue. It doesn’t have to be. Too bad so many of you are so short sighted on this issue, because this really is a more important issue than cycle tracks, bike lanes, glow in the dark spray paint, and ducks when it comes to the long term impact of riding a bicycle.
Sorry…. that last paragraph should have read “doesn’t have to be one or the other”
Michael and/or Jonathan: you might want to edit the publishers note at the end of this story. It implies that Phil Sano was tackled and tasered for disobeying a traffic control device. However, according the linked article he was stopped solely for not having a front light on his bike.
You’re right, Ian. Thanks. Fixed and noted.
As police reports go, this is a pretty complete one. Looks like the officer had probable cause to make the stop–that was reinforced by the convictions for the citations. Yes you have to tell the officer who you are if stopped for an infraction (“infraction” in this case is a very specific legal term meaning that the punishment for breaking this particular law can only be a fine, NOT arrest or incarceration–most traffic violations are infractions), but if you refuse, you are now committing a “crime” (for which you CAN be arrested, and incarcerated if convicted). Surprising suspects with an arrest is a very common and useful tactic used by police to prevent a suspect from having time to plan a resistance or grab a weapon, though it doesn’t always work–in this case, based on the officer’s report, it appears that the suspect tensed up his arms and refused to put them behind his back, which is the normal, initial sign that someone is resisting being arrested. A normal police response is to then try to knock the resisting person to the ground to better control them and prevent escape. Though policy can differ among agencies, use of a Taser on subjects resisting in this manner is often ok as well.
When I was an officer my partner and I approached a suspect from behind and grabbed his arms before he even knew we were there (he was standing outside a parked car, talking with the driver through the driver’s side window). We didn’t warn him or tell him why he was being arrested until he was in cuffs. Turns out he had a revolver tucked into the front waistband of his pants (I know! Straight out of a movie! Who really does that?) I’m certain that had we not surprised him I would have been involved in a shooting that afternoon.
It could be that we as a society are at a point where we want our police to react differently to these sorts of scenarios, or maybe we are in mid-debate on it. If the final decision is that it is time for a change, we should definitely change some laws and policies and start training our officers differently. In terms of current training, however, this incident looks pretty by-the-book.
I will be interested in seeing BP’s follow-up on this civil case. Often things are revealed over the course of a trial that provide a much fuller perspective than the initial police reports or the initial public statements made by the plaintiff. At first glance based on this limited information I think whether the subject attempted to ride off on his bike or not will be more of a semantic and less of a substantive issue.
Thanks for sharing a well-informed and nuanced perspective, PoPo. Of course we can debate a lot of these points, but they add a lot to the discussion.
I agree with Michael, and also want to thank you for weighing in here, PoPo.
Though one thing you mentioned does trouble me.
“but if you refuse, you are now committing a ‘crime'”
That seems like a textbook example of completely unnecessary—and easily misunderstood—escalation. I think we (and by we I mean everybody but especially law enforcement) knows by now that in this country the treatment of blacks by the police has in far too many cases been unfair, biased, violent, and worse. To the point where if I imagine myself in this black man’s shoes I would have my doubts that everything will necessary go smoothly or fairly, whether I cooperate or not.
It is useful to learn, specifically, how a minor (for a white person) infraction suddenly can escalate into a major thing, and how the rules of engagement are apparently designed to produce exactly this outcome.
Why should anyone, of any skin color, be knocked to the ground by a police officer, having initially being stopped for not having a headlight? What good could possibly come of this? What does this kind of escalation and violence achieve? Respect for the law?
“It could be that we as a society are at a point where we want our police to react differently to these sorts of scenarios…”
Yes. And I am pretty sure there are other, civilized countries that have all along.
Hey thanks for the nice discussion!
Here’s the thing about identifying yourself when stopped for a minor infraction: 99% of the people do it. My experience with people who refuse to identify themselves is that the vast majority of them are attempting to hide their identity because they have done something else that is worse. Often this translates into them knowing that they have an arrest warrant for some previous accusation and they don’t want to be arrested. I suspect this is foundation of the criminal law that requires people to identify themselves for purposes of issuing a citation. By making it a crime, it gives officers authority to arrest people who refuse, transport them to a booking facility, and continue to try to identify them, usually by taking their fingerprints.
Another thing to consider is that without some sort of identifying information, police cannot issue a citation. If you could avoid a citation by simply refusing to identify yourself, why would anyone give their name?
Along these same lines, most people submit to being arrested for crimes without giving any resistance. They simply allow their hands to be handcuffed and walk to the police car. The few people who do resist usually reveal it initially by running away or resisting allowing their hands/arms to be put behind their back. My experience has been that once someone does that, it will take a minimum of two, maybe three or four officers to force someone’s arms behind their back–just try crossing your arms in front of your chest (like you are shivering in the cold) and holding tight while a friend tries to pry them out and behind your back–the arm, chest, shoulder and back muscles you are using to keep your arms crossed are some of the largest and more powerful in your body. This stays true even if your arms aren’t crossed and just held at your sides. If someone is walking and using their legs to get away at the same time you are trying to grapple with their arms, it makes it even more difficult, which is why most officers try to knock resisting arrestees down and pin them while trying to control hands and arms.
This is a very long way to get to this way of looking at this scenario, assuming the police report is accurate: Mr. Robinson was not knocked down by the police for a missing bike light. He was knocked down after failing to identify himself to the police after being stopped for no front light (opportunity #1 for him to not be knocked down) and then after not complying with the officer’s attempt to arrest him for not identifying himeslf ( opportunity #2 for him not to be knocked down). And generally this could be in the public interest because #1 it goes down this way in a very tiny percentage of stops for traffic violations, and #2, it often (though not necessarily always) reveals people who are wanted for more serious reasons.
Just some thoughts, thanks for the debate!
“My experience with people who refuse to identify themselves is that the vast majority of them are attempting to hide their identity because they have done something else that is worse.”
If we skip over the history of biased treatment of blacks by the police here in the US, your explanation makes a whole lot of sense, and I can even see how, in a ‘to serve and protect’ mode this could be a reasonable protocol.
But the presumption that anyone who resists is hiding something worse than a missing taillight seems a big problem in the case before us. What if, being black, he has had or knows others who have had really bad/unfair experiences with the police, and therefore has reason to distrust their statements, their treatment of him? You can’t pin this on the the black man; this is all on the police. To me his reaction, his noncompliance, seems just as easily ascribed to a fear of not wanting to end up beaten or dead. You can (and did) say ‘if he had just complied like everyone else, he could have avoided all this trouble,’ but this elides the fact that to a black man in the US today there is really no guarantee of that.
Put another way, I think the escalation from
traffic stop = infraction => information/citation to
refusing to cooperate = crime => taser/arrest
is not necessarily going to be as clearcut of a distinction to anyone, but especially to a black man in the US today. The fact that we in this country are by now conversant in both police bias and excessive force suggests to me that the lines you delineate so crisply may or may not look like that to the person being stopped for a minor infraction.
I disagree, in that cooperating with the officer will automatically put you in the clear. It depends on whether you get lucky in having a thoughtful, intelligent officer, or one who is more than happy to abuse their power. In my case (see my 1st comment) he refused to believe/accept my work (photo) ID (red flag#1), then insisted on a driver’s liscense, for a cyclist ! (red flag#2), then called for backup with no probable cause (red flag#3), since I wasn’t resisting or attempting to flee (I should have), and to top it off, lied in court about it. Contrast this with a traffic stop a few years later when I was driving, mid day mid week with my elderly parents in the car (was taking them to lunch). Routine speed trap, I was apparently doing 35 in a 25mph zone on Bybee, the officer set the tone by being respectful and fair, suggested I appeal the ticket, since I had a clean record. He even pointed out that I could write in the appeal vs showing up to court. My big guess as to the reason for the discrepancy in treatment, was that the 2nd officer was part of the PPB traffic division while the first was a PPB officer assigned to the trimet/transit division, which is a conglomerate of officers from all surrounding metro departments, where apparently all the losers are sent (this isn’t just my opinion). I found out after that the 1st officer already had a reputation within PPB as being a ****. Point is unless police departments make a concerted effort to retrain or get rid of bad apples, incidents like these (unwarranted/excessive use of force) will continue to occur, to the detriment of both police, cilivians and all of us tax payers.
Excellent comment. While I believe that in general by being non-compliant from the get-go you are inviting escalation, I’ve also had a little bit of this “bias” based merely on outward differences in my appearance at the time. I’ve been stopped driving a new Audi, clean-shaven and with my elderly mom in the car, and approached with a great deal of respect. When stopped while in older beat-up-looking cars (my old Acura had a paint-peeling problem), with several days of growth on my face, the manner in which I was treated was very, very different. Being stopped on a bike versus in a car – or if I was female versus male – wouldn’t be a bit surprised if my treatment would be worse. Hell, when I was a kid, age alone would get us stopped and ‘harassed’ by the police on regular occasions (not that we didn’t deserve it… ;).
People might infer from several of my comments that I’m of the opinion that these biases don’t exist, but nothing’s further from the truth. What I don’t like is the immediate conclusion that the bias is based solely on Robinson’s race. It permeates the conversations here, making these speculations just as black and white as the bias that our “national conversation” is based on.
Personally I suspect the biggest threat perceived by the officer was Robinson’s stature and fitness, and the officer even wrote about it in that detail (in the initial report, long before lawsuits challenged their memories of the incident). I tried to illustrate my own experiences with that physical bias, and they had nothing to do with race or gender, but the fact that I was physically much bigger than the (sole) officer detaining me. The other big factor in both Robinson’s and my stops was it being after dark – much different vibe than in the daytime, again, regardless of race. I highly doubt that I’d have been whipped around and handcuffed – or even stopped – if I had performed the same vehicular maneuver in the daylight, even in that beat-up old van (which I was once asked to “park around back instead of in the front lot because we have customers visiting today” when I worked in Corvallis years ago).
Could the officer have stopped him – or worse, escalated the takedown – because Robinson is black? Absolutely. But I think it’s myopic to draw the conclusion based solely on his race that it must have been the case.
Anna’s experience as well as my own demonstrate that these biases exist, and that they do not solely revolve around race (or even gender), but factor in other visual perceptions and environmental influences as well.
“…Personally I suspect the biggest threat perceived by the officer was Robinson’s stature and fitness, and the officer even wrote about it in that detail…” Pete
Before the stature and fitness, Blood writes about Robinson’s demeanor and disposition:
“As I walked up to the male, I saw he had a disgusted/angered look on his face. The male stared at me initially with squinted eyes and furrowed eyebrows. I told the male “Hi” and asked how it was going. The male did not reply to me other than giving an unintelligible grunt. …”
Good point, but I just think that if the officer was significantly larger than Robinson, he wouldn’t have been intimidated. I suspect he’s used to seeing people disgruntled for having been stopped all day long.
That’s interesting that you think the officer felt intimidated. Reading the excerpts of his report here, I didn’t get the impression he felt intimidated, though he definitely noted in his report, details about Robinson’s demeanor and stature that conveyed to people reading the report, what kind of person he had to deal with.
In the coffee shop I regularly visit, I’ve thought about the range of body types of the police officers that come in. Some do, but they don’t all have big, bouncer type physiques. Some are relatively short, and some are women with rather slim physiques. To equalize discrepancy in the natural build of their bodies, they have training that prepares them to deal with the most obstinate, dangerous people imaginable.
Officer Blood’s procedure sounded fairly good to me, though I’m no authority on that sort of thing. As soon as he realized he was going to have a problem with the person he stopped, he called for backup. That’s not intimidation, that’s being smart.
I feel bad for Robinson. What I know of him through this story, is that he doesn’t seem to be a very bad guy. Not being in his shoes, I can’t say whether his refusing to identify himself to the officer was the right decision or not. He most likely had reasons for doing what he did, and I hope they were good ones. I hope it all works out the best for him in the long run.
“Mr. Robinson was not knocked down by the police for a missing bike light. He was knocked down after failing to identify himself to the police after being stopped for no front light (…) and then after not complying with the officer’s attempt to arrest him for not identifying himeslf.” –PoPo
It is not at all clear to me that Mr. Robinson was notified that he was being cited for an infraction. If he was not being cited, he had no reason or rule to identify himself and hence no reason for Blood to tackle him or Wilber to Taser him. All parties agree he was not notified that he was being arrested until after he’d been assaulted. I’ll agree it could be a very tough, close-call case to be a juror on, but what I would much prefer to see as a policy to prevent that sort of case would be better communication by the officers. 30 seconds of talking could have stopped 3 minutes of violence and 3 years of litigation, not to mention physical trauma and rancor between cops and citizens. For example:
“Sir, I witnessed you commit traffic infractions x, y and z, that is why I have stopped you. You are legally required to identify yourself to me for citation of those infractions. You must provide me with your name, address and date of birth…”
“Sir, you are required to identify yourself to me due to the infractions I witnessed…”
“Sir, failure to identify yourself in this circumstance is a crime…”
I appreciate your reading the story and offering your thoughts on the manner in which the Hillsboro police approached and dealt with Jermaine Robinson.
The incident is ripe for all sorts of speculation about the full range of possible reasons for the stop, a number of which people commenting here have done. It’s most likely not much of a secret that police do use infractions like no lights, failure to signal, expired tags, etc, as a pretext for stopping people they feel the need to check out.
Also not much of a secret that if for whatever reason, a person fits one or more of various profiles, they likely stand a better chance of being stopped than does someone that is plain, ordinary, and boring looking.
Jason H’s account of how he handled his experience in being stopped, seems like a good example to model:
Had Jermaine Robinson, a black guy, followed that example, would it have turned out similarly for him, as it did for Jason H, a white guy? Impossible to say for certain.
“It could be that we as a society are at a point where we want our police to react differently to these sorts of scenarios…”
Is this really on us? What about the police themselves? Is there any impetus within the ranks to make a friendlier interaction with the public the default approach, to deescalate things rather than escalate them? I’m not a cop, but I know I wouldn’t enjoy beating people I meet on the street, reinforcing the negative stereotypes of excessive force & bias, making large portions of the public fear & hate the institution I work for. I’ve heard of ‘community policing,’ and it seems to have worked spectacularly well in some cases.
Pedestrians need lights now? Seems odd that he got a couple of vehicular citations for supposedly jaywalking.
I don’t fight the police. I don’t argue with the police. I’m nice as I can be because there’s nothing to be gained from being otherwise.
A police officer has a club, cuffs, a taser, pepper spray, a gun and defensive gear. There’s no reason for a police officer to ever lose a fight. In addition, his ‘gang’ is always going to be bigger than my ‘gang’.
If I am under the control of a police officer I comply with his demands. If he asks for my I.D. I supply it. If I don’t have an I.D. I properly identify myself. If he attempts to handcuff me, I’m not going to resist.
To do anything else is asking for exactly what this individual received: trouble.
Quote of the week. For sure. Thanks, daisy.
But was he stopped because he was on a bicycle, or because he committed an infraction while on a bicycle?
In any case, his being on a bike, not ensconced in a car, made his “profile” easier for the officer to detect. That’s a big part of what makes this a significant story, on several levels.
Cars have windows. Now you’re just making stuff up.
Heh! Windows are often tinted, conditions are often twilight-ish in the PNW, cars often have headrests that obscure the view of the driver from behind. Now you’re just replying reflexively.
And if he was driving around after dark without lights on in his car he’s likely to be stopped as well.
I’d venture to guess that riding a bike without lights on after dark made him stick out too. Frankly as someone who was hit hard by a guy riding the wrong way in the dark without lights (under a bridge in Beaverton), I’m all for the police stopping “ninjas.”
You can speculate all you want that his race had something to do with it, and you’re entitled to your own opinions on which party did or did not do things “right”, but the one undeniable fact remains that Robinson was in violation of the law when he was stopped.
The pattern of police abusing, and shooting Blacks, as distinct from Whites, is dramatic in the extreme.
Daily Kos, Wed Apr 01, 2015 — A total of 111 people were killed by police in the US in March of 2015. Since 1900, in the entire United Kingdom, 52 people have been killed by police. The sheer fact that American police kill TWICE as many people per MONTH as police have killed in the modern history of the United Kingdom is sick, preposterous, and alarming.
it makes no difference if he had been on a skateboard, unicycle, peds or pogo stick. those would be only conveyances to get him to the location where the incident occurred.
The Police APPEAR to be clearly wrong , but the victim did contribute.
This will end up in court with a settlement.
Just this morning, Slate published a great piece by Jamelle Bouie called “Broken Taillight Policing” that shares the results of a study of two kinds of traffic stops: From a large study of traffic stops, researchers “identify two kinds of stops: traffic safety and investigatory. In the former, drivers are stopped for clearly breaking traffic laws, from speeding to driving under the influence. These stops are straightforward. Officers explain the offense, follow a procedure, and issue a ticket. The process is quick and unremarkable. This is true for whites and blacks.”
However, it’s quite different with investigatory stops (which is perhaps what happened with Robinson in Hillsboro).
“There are racial disparities in police stops—blacks are stopped twice as often as whites—but they aren’t related to traffic safety offenses, in which cops exercise a little less discretion and violations are equal within groups. … In [investigatory stops], drivers are stopped for exceedingly minor violations—driving too slowly, malfunctioning lights, failure to signal—which are used as pretext for investigations of the driver and the vehicle. Sanctioned by courts and institutionalized in most police departments, investigatory stops are aimed at ‘suspicious’ drivers and meant to stop crime, not traffic offenses. And as the authors note, ‘virtually all of the wide racial disparity in the likelihood of being stopped is concentrated in one category of stops: discretionary stops for minor violations of the law.'”
The article says that the more you break traffic laws, the more likely you will be stopped for traffic safety reasons. However, there isn’t the same correlation for investigatory stops, which tend to target black men far more than white men, even though this practice yields fewer suspects.
I won’t quote the whole article, which is excellent. It’s written in the context of Walter Scott in Charleston, who was shot and killed after being pulled over for a broken taillight, but it has implications for policing everywhere.
I found the book “The New Jim Crow”, a part of which discusses these types of statistics relating to “pretext stops” to be incredibly illuminating. It was specifically enlightening by shining light into an area that, to be honest, I would have not been as willing to acknowledge is a problem before I read the book.
“However, it’s quite different with investigatory stops (which is perhaps what happened with Robinson in Hillsboro).”
That’s not what happened with Mr. Robinson in Hillsboro. The officer had him for no lights, crossing without the signal and ultimately failure to provide identification.
Has anyone else noticed that there has been no questioning of whether Mr. Robinson pressed the crosswalk button or not? It’s been nothing but “I didn’t see a Don’t Walk signal” instead of “I pressed the button” or “I saw a Walk signal and proceeded”.
He should not have been stopped for “no lights” in the crosswalk because the lighting statute only applies to riding on a roadway. Further, the officer did not claim to have seen a “don’t walk”, only assumed that it was showing.
Blood was stopped at a red light facing west and says he saw a “don’t walk” pointing east, toward him. Robinson was facing east, crossing westbound. So (assuming Blood has it right) Robinson was probably making an illegal cross, and pushing the button wouldn’t have changed this. (It’s possible the signal he faced was out of service.)
There’s not a major dispute over whether Robinson crossed against the signal. The dispute here is in part about how common it is for an officer to stop someone for jaybiking.
Exactly. Walter Scott in Charleston was killed following a traffic stop for a broken taillight. This isn’t a traffic safety stop. The Slate article I link explains this all quite well.
“The dispute here is in part about how common it is for an officer to stop someone for jaybiking.”
(In part), how common is it for a police officer to stop someone after dark for not having a headlight (either in a car or on a bike)?
I’ve been stopped three times in my life under these circumstances, and one may even go so far as to say I was “profiled”… for driving after midnight. (Or maybe it was because of the beat up old cars I was driving).
Once I was stopped around 2 AM for “failure to signal a turn”. (Those of you who know me – even through comments here – know this is my absolute biggest pet peeve and not likely). I was asked to step out of the car and was given a field sobriety test. I passed. The officer let me go and left with my license in his pocket and my glasses on the roof of his car. I got both back with no apology and a knock on my door around 3:30 AM.
Another time I got stopped because “it looked like my registration was expired.” It wasn’t. I was given a field sobriety test and passed. I then sat in my car for a very long time while the officer held onto my license and supposedly ran checks. I have no criminal or traffic record, was driving slowly on a very rough road a block from my house, and was entirely cooperative. Apparently the officer called “for backup” for whatever reason, and he explained that I wasn’t free to go until the other officer arrived and that I had to continue waiting. The other officer pulled up and got out, and by coincidence it turned out to be my racquetball partner. I told him I was going to sue the police for unlawfully detaining me in order to be too tired to kick his ass on the court the next morning. (He mentioned the next day that the officer that detained me has a Napoleon complex… I’m 6’4″).
When I first moved to California I was stopped for “driving too slowly.” (Yes, that’s hilariously ironic if you know how people drive here). It was 1 AM and I was leaving a girl’s house in Menlo Park after a date. I was driving a van and in the back was my bike, kiteboarding gear, and surfboards, as well as a suit hanging up from my day at work. I was asked to step out of the van and then immediately the officer grabbed my wrist and spun me around and pushed me into the van with his elbow and handcuffed me. Clearly I was surprised, and I yelled “what the..?!?”.
I started to instinctively fight when he grabbed for my other wrist but I caught myself and said, “I’m not resisting… I am NOT resisting, but you owe me an explanation!”. The officer replied, “You are not under arrest but this is for my protection. Another officer is on the way for backup and should be here soon. Do I have the right to search your vehicle?” I said, “Yes, I’ve got nothing to hide, but that’s not the explanation I just asked for.”
The second officer arrived and took me to his car and took the handcuffs off while I ‘assumed the position’ on his hood. He explained that I fit the description of a vehicle seen during a recent string of burglaries – a white van with out-of-state plates – and that the officer stopped me because I was driving slowly and pulled a U-turn when I saw him. He apologized for the other guy for grabbing me by surprise but explained that I was significantly bigger than him and he was alone and had no idea if anyone else was hiding in my van. I said that I had just left this girl’s house and started my cold van and turned around to head back to the highway, and that I hadn’t seen any other vehicles or signs of life anywhere around me so it definitely wasn’t in response to seeing a cop. They continued to grill me with lots of detailed questions about my friend, what she does for a living, where she works, what do I do, where am I living, and of course why am I in Menlo Park with an Oregon registration and driver’s license (which they ran and came back clean with).
So yes, this kind of policing is definitely common, and I have no doubt in my mind that I would have been Tased and taken down if I had continued to pull away when the officer first grabbed my hand and spun me around.
I think a large portion of the problem is that IF a settlement , it doesn’t come out of the officers pocket or Police budget (AFAIK) .
So what it the penalty to the aggressive officer ?
Paid admin leave ? that’s vacation.
IF the officer/department were financially responsible in settlements, I THINK there would be a lot fewer incidents.
lame this even happened!
“The dispute here is in part about how common it is for an officer to stop someone for jaybiking.”
I cannot believe this would be used as a defense. It’s pretty common knowledge that many motorists exceed the speed limits in this state. When one does gets ticketed for speeding, are they going to argue before a court that it’s unfair the police don’t pull everybody else over as well?
I cannot wait to hear about all of the HPD false arrest cases Rogoway claims to have at the ready.
Again, this is not the only reason he was stopped. It was 10 o’clock and night and he didn’t have a headlight on. That’s in the police statement linked to above.
And the eyewitness, who was friends with the cop, disagreed with the cop’s statement. So who’s lying? Two people, the cyclist and the witness, or the cop?
Where exactly does Allen claim that the bicyclist was riding with a headlight? Yes there are other discrepancies in the stories, but nowhere do I see anyone denying that he wasn’t riding in the dark without a headlight. (And FWIW there are no headlights on their bikes in the photo).
The discrepancies in the stories (as written) are solely around their memories of Robinson’s positioning on the bike, and I believe both people are remembering these details from their own perspectives and not necessarily lying. Heck, Robinson’s statements themselves get less detailed over eventual filings, and the second officer couldn’t even remember the guy’s name correctly. The mind has a powerful way of convincing people of their own “truth” – especially when self-preservation is involved.
Personally, I don’t lend credibility about bike-related details to anyone who doesn’t ride a bike regularly – but hey, that’s just my own bias.
The incident reports were filed long before the lawsuits, so do I believe that the officer observed Robinson riding without lighting and (what he believed) was against a traffic signal? Yes, absolutely – and as I mentioned before I am very thankful that officers stop bicyclists who ride without lights on after dark. That’s also my own bias (based on painful experience).
As in most news articles around events like this, none of us will actually know motivations, details, actions and reactions, etc., but we are free to speculate away. Frankly, I’m a huge fan of dashboard and body cameras, and yes I know video can be tampered with, but I also know people in the business of making the technologies that prevent that tampering, and they’re pretty darn smart.
It’s events like this that will cost us taxpayers more as we’re driven to utilize expensive surveillance tools to make sure everyone is doing the ‘right’ thing. But hey, in the long run it’ll be likely be cheaper than the lawsuits we currently have to pay for.
From this bikeportland story:
“…“She said that she had a clear view of the entire incident,” Rogoway said in an interview Monday. “When asked if Mr. Robinson attempted to ride away, she very firmly said no, he had his feet very firmly planted on the ground and his hands planted on his handlebars.” …” andersen/bikeportland
Also, earlier in this story, it says “…The interaction escalated over the course of three minutes …”. Officer Blood also says at one point in his report, that Robinson had his feet firmly planted on the ground. Not though, for the entire three minutes that bikeportland reports. So whether Allen was watching Robinson for every second of the entire three minutes would be something to confirm.
By the way, not directly related, but tonight, I happened to read in the NYTimes, a story about the shooting of a guy during a traffic stop in South Carolina. Person was driving, had a tail light out. Officer said the guy grabbed his stun gun, prompting the officer to shoot. Except that, a bystander happened to have taken cell phone video of the stop, which showed the guy running away from the cop, and consequently getting shot in the back eight times. The vid, on agreement between the vid owner, and the family of the victim, wasn’t brought forward until after it was certain the officer would not present an accurate account in his report, of what happened.
Are there parallels between the South Carolina incident and the one here in Hillsboro? Some. Are the two incidents the same on most points? I’d say no. Both incidents though, are worth considering closely, to help think about what all parties involved should have done that may have been better than what they did.
it seems obvious to me that the cop was completely wrong here… by their own admission they never said they were issuing the suspect a citation, only that they could issue one… no citation? no need to identify…
talk to me all you want and lecture me about waiting for the traffic signal, but unless you say that you’re issuing me a citation then you don’t need to know who I am…
I don’t see this ending well for the Hillsboro police… they need to choose their words and actions better in the future…
“also, we need to get rid of the bike lighting requirement if you’re on the sidewalk…” Spiffy
People using the sidewalk with bikes not readily visible because the bike does not have lights, is not a good situation.
I don’t see how it’s different than a mobility scooter, or a jogger…
You should explain why you don’t see how a bike ridden on the sidewalk without lights is different than a mobility scooter, or a jogger.
I’ll tell you my sense of the difference by personal experience walking around my neighborhood. First of all, I don’t often encounter people on mobility scooters, but do frequently have occasion to encounter people riding bikes without lights, on the sidewalk at night.
Bikes require being balanced in order to ride them. On the close confines of sidewalks, the potential for a collision with another person on the sidewalk is considerable. I sometimes observe people riding slow, but most always at least half again as fast as a person walking, so…say 6 mph, but not infrequently, 10 mph or so. People riding without lights on the sidewalk, in low light conditions, can have them be very difficult for other people using the sidewalk, to discern the bike and rider from the shadows, backdrops of trees, etc.
I’ve noticed people riding tend to be very silent rolling. People running, tend to be comparatively noisy with foot falls, huffing and puffing, giving far better advance notice of approach.
also, we need to get rid of the bike lighting requirement if you’re on the sidewalk… this guy could have been on the sidewalk because he forgot his light or the batteries died…
Yes, because the sidewalk’s such a safe place to ride a bike, especially after dark.
just as safe as walking… and better than riding in the road with no lights…
Only as safe as walking if you’re moving no faster than a walking speed on the sidewalk whenever you’re approaching a crosswalk or driveway.
Unless Mr. Robinson goes on 3+ hour rides, he began his trek already in darkness. Not that it matters, but I’d like to learn what his routine course is, as suggested by Rogoway.
I’m going to disagree with the idea that sidewalk riding without lights is as safe as walking, especially at night. If Mr. Robinson was headed east, he’s entering into a busy (though probably not real busy at that hour) retail zone with motorists turning out of driveways. Bike ninjas are just asking for it.
why are bike ninjas the only ones asking for it and not pedestrians? both would be crossing the motorists path at a walking speed…
I’ve gone somewhere in the light and left when it was dark only to find out my batteries were dead… but I had the privilege of being close to a Plaid Pantry and having money for overpriced batteries…
Riding at the speed of a pedestrian on a sidewalk is something I’ve never witnessed.
Here you go, then: https://vimeo.com/118340310
One bicycle at the speed of a pedestrian on a sidewalk for over two minutes.
Wow, lotsa memories come back with your vids. I lived in Lexington and hung out in the ‘People’s Republic’ years ago. Hope you guys are thawed out by now!
The last ice floating on Fresh Pond melted earlier this week, and it snowed/sleeted a hair that same day. There’s still a bus-sized pile of ice-N-snow on the backside of the Alewife T station. The temperature is still below average, often 30s in the morning when we leave. Today looks warmer. I’ve gotten accustomed to starting cold and waiting for my waste heat to warm me up.
I think we get along with our police somewhat better (though as an oldish upper-middle-income white guy, how the heck would I know for sure?) , though I don’t venture much into the suburbs where “those roadies” “ride in packs” that “block traffic”. Darker skin is still underrepresented on bicycles around here. The current locations of the Hubway (share) bike stations doesn’t help that much. It’s a liberal place in a liberal state, a lot of people worry about these things, and a little bit gets done. We still have idiotic misallocation of police resources.
Yeah, east coast is very different than west in many respects. People (and cops) there are not so… dare I say… sensitive? But yeah, I remember my Dad moaning about the cops getting paid overtime to sit in their cars and watch highway construction workers. Same happens here in Cali though; we’ve got one of the lowest crime rates in the country but we still fly a police chopper over several times daily (it originally started in the 90’s when heavily-armed Vietnamese gangs were robbing Intel of Pentium chips, but nobody really makes chips in Silicon Valley anymore). I’m waiting for it to be replaced with a drone…
I grew up in Weymouth on Great Pond, and played hockey on it for years when it froze, but then it just stopped freezing. Not so for this year I imagine!
They called it Taxachusetts, but having a reasonable sales tax that wasn’t charged on necessities always made sense to me (plus 5% was easy math). Out here we get wild budget swings, Oregon mailing checks some years and claiming near bankruptcy in others, and Cali so outrageous with housing that people who wash dishes and flip burgers have to live 25 to a house (no lie – one ‘family’ was just locked out of their rental in SF). Sigh.
Stay warm and keep the rubber side down!
One taser is enough to take someone down. A serious back injury is inexcusable – going to cost a lot of money and pain, years of recovery. But never give attitude to the police.
I always find the comment on stories such as these infinitely more ‘enlightening’ than the actual story …