The Los Angeles Police Department launched an investigation over the weekend after an officer was spotted apparently throwing a kick toward a bicyclist involved in a demonstration against British Petroleum Friday night in Hollywood.
At least 400 bicyclists (organizers say it was 600 to 1,000) showed up for the ride to a BP station in Beverly Hills to protest the company's role in the Gulf oil spill. It's not clear what precipitated the cop's action on Hollywood Boulevard near Highland Avenue, but after the camera man appeared to have yelled, "Wow, wow, wow -- what the f--- was that for," he says he was tackled and detained.
Other bike riders later complained online that police put their batons through riders' spokes, drove patrol cars into groups of riders and threw bicyclists to the ground for minor infractions such as not having proper lights. (It's a strange stance as police often help block intersections for other demonstrations so that protesters can get through safely. It would be interesting to find out what the difference was in this case).
According to a poster at the Midnight Ridazz forum, the clash happened when the mass of bicyclists hit a red light at Hollywood and Highland and about 20 riders rent through it, sparking the officers to crack down. The poster states that cops posted up on the intersection and started grabbing riders as they went by, prompting some to call the cops names and others, according to other accounts, to yell "f--- the police."
The cameraman, meanwhile, appears to have been taken to the ground, with one officer yelling get up and another saying get down.
"The department's Professional Standards Bureau has taken the lead in the inquiry and the police commission's inspector general has also been made fully aware of the matter," LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger said.
Paul M. Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing L.A. police, urged the public to reserve judgment until all the facts of the case surface.
"We only ask that the community refrain from a rush to judgment," he said. "It is always important to remember that home video, shot from a distance, from one angle and in the dark, and not at the beginning of the incident seldom tells the whole story."
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The incident happened as the police seemed to have patched up relations with the bike community, some members of which had complained of uneven enforcement in cases when bicyclists have been hit by vehicles. Paysinger said he was working on a new training document that would inform officers about riders' rights.
Is it just us, or does it feel like the reform-minded rapport with the community that Chief William Bratton built during his tenure in L.A. is already starting to unravel only a half-year or so after his exit?
The ride was organized by a group called Los Angeles Critical Mass. That BP outlet at Olympic and Robertson boulevards, by the way, has been marketed, ironically or not, as an environmentally friendly gas station.
-With reporting from City News Service. Got news? Email us.