How to respond when the police won’t

Last week, Charlie Beck was sworn in as L.A.’s new police chief.

In his remarks afterwards, he made it clear that he planned to continue departmental reforms established by departing chief William Bratton. As the Times reported later that day,

Beck made his own presentation, saying his top goal was to extend the reforms begun by Bratton and move them down into the rank and file of the department. He said he would concentrate on continuing reforms Bratton introduced into the mind-set of the thousands of officers who are the heart of the organization.

“Now is the time to push down into the patrol cars,” Beck said of the reforms, adding that this effort would be the “hallmark of my leadership.”

He may have some work to do.

As you may recall, last week I wrote about a second-hand report that a cyclist had trouble reporting a road rage incident to police. And the surprising responsiveness from a couple of high-ranking officers who looked into the situation.

But since then, I’ve gotten more reports from cyclists who said they’ve had problems with the LAPD, from reporting incidents with drivers to the failure of some officers to adequately enforce — or understand — the law regarding bikes on the streets.

Most surprising were two separate cases in which patrol officers said the cyclists were at fault because they were riding — wait for it — with traffic. Yes, they were blamed by police officers for riding in the direction that safety, common sense and the law requires.

If there was ever any question that police don’t receive adequate training in bicycle law (see #8) — here in L.A. and around the nation — that should put it to rest once and for all.

Then there was this email from a cyclist named Iain.

He wrote about a couple of incidents in which he had trouble getting the police to accept a report, including one in which he was run off the road by a car. When the driver refused to exchange insurance information after he finally caught up to it several blocks later, he rode to a nearby police station to file a hit-and-run report.

According to Iain, the officer at the desk was sympathetic, but didn’t know what to do because he hadn’t received any training in that area (see above):

He decided to call West Traffic to get clarification, and the officer that answered the phone told him that the LAPD does not take reports involving cyclists.  I asked for a supervisor, who was quite upset to hear that I was told this, but was unable to figure out which officer had transferred the call.  This time, they took the report.

As the Lieutenant pointed out last week, how a police officer responds depends on how well the victim communicates what happened — as well as how the officer interprets the applicable laws and regulations.

But it’s very troubling that two Westside cyclists have said they were told that the LAPD “does not accept reports involving cyclists.”

Fortunately, they both did the right thing.

Following the officer’s refusal to take a report, each rider asked to speak to a supervisor. And in each case, the supervisor overruled the initial refusal and agreed to file a report.

In a follow-up email, the Lieutenant agreed.

In regards to the handling of an investigation, any community member can request to speak to a supervisor if they feel their situation is not being handled properly.  The supervisor will come in and access the situation and intervene when necessary to correct a mistake, explain the officer(s) action/Department policy, or initiate a complaint investigation.

He went on to address how riders should respond when confronted with a threatening situation or an altercation with a driver:

My advice to your readers is to try and take the higher road. Understand the rules of the road and ride within the guidelines of the Vehicle Code. If they are a victim of a crime they should report it. If they witness unsafe driving, they can report it to the Bureau Traffic Division. Keep in mind that if the traffic unit responds to an area and sees the bicyclist riding in an unsafe manner, they could also be subject to a citation.

In other words, the knife cuts both ways.

So before you call the police, make sure it’s really the other guy who’s breaking the law.


Celebrate Thanksgiving by riding the Seven Hills of Mar Vista. Here’s your chance to write the introduction to L.A.’s alternative D.I.Y. bike plan. Damien Newton offers advice on confronting L.A.’s bike theft epidemic. Friday Night Lights at the San Jose Velodrome. The nine driving habits that annoy cyclists the most. An Austin teenager is under arrest for shooting a cyclist with a pellet gun, in a case reminiscent of last year’s attack on PCH. On the subject of intentional assaults, a Miami cyclist was injured in an intentional hit-and-run. The driver who killed two tandem riders in Texas, orphaning their 7-year old daughter, says it really wasn’t his fault. No, really. A New Haven safe cycling advocate gets hit by a car. If you’re going to crash your bike, don’t hit a police car. The biking bassist for the Canadian band Sloan discusses his recent hit-and-run collision. Bangalore school kids go bike. Finally, a Santa Cruz writer opposes a Class 1 bikeway through an environmentally sensitive habit, in part because speeding cyclists would endanger dog walkers, small children and all the other people who aren’t supposed to use it.


  1. Yokota Fritz says:

    Regarding Arana Gulch in Santa Cruz: “…people who aren’t supposed to use it.” Huh? It will be a multipurpose path for any and all users. One of the arguments in favor of the path is that it makes Arana Gulch more accessible to all users, including the handicapped. Another argument is that creating a paved path through the open space will reduce the impact currently caused by the social trails crisscrossing the preserve. People Power Santa Cruz has their endorsement of this project here.

    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks for the clarification. Not being familiar with this project, I relied on the article in the link, which describes it only as a bikeway or “bike road.” If it is designed as a multi-use project, then of course all users are entitled to have access.

      The problem is that most bikeways are intended for bikes only, yet other users slowly take over until there’s little room left for bikes, as with the Marvin Braude bikeway in Santa Monica and Venice. Or they complain about the cyclists, when that’s who it was designed to serve — not unlike someone who would walk on a freeway and complain about all the cars.

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