« Someone failed Pedestrian Detours 101 | Main | Arlington County Releases RFP for Public Bikes »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Did you see this? It looks from the style of post that you may be quoting someone else. I just don't see another name.

To answer your question. It has never happened to me.

Correct I am quoting someone else - I didn't know if they were OK with me using their name. So, no I didn't see it.

Most likely Secrete Service police in that area of town. They might not be up to speed on changes to DC bike laws.

I was the one who witnessed it. The cops were on bikes and wearing yellow jackets. I assumed DC police, but I'm not sure.

Never happened to me, but happened to a friend of mine in the vicinity of capitol hill. she got stopped on constitution eastbound during the early evening and almost exact same thing happened. Secret Service guy on a bike interrogated her about registration, not having a bike lock, rear light, threatening to ticket her and impound the bike, etc. To be honest, when she told me the story I kind of thought he was just hassling her and trying to get her number or something, but now I am more concerned...I take the same route every day. Please send regards to poster and the subject of police scrutiny.

I go through Lafayette park everyday as well. Never experienced anything more than a police officer on a bike telling me to ride on the sidewalk that morning.

Yellow Jackets can still mean they're Secret Service.

Great! And this is supposed to be the bike police patrol? Are they only sending the worst misfits to the bike patrol?

What stupid harrasment according to this report. I don't know what I would do. Think about that! Registration for your bike that is not needed, impounding your bike which is unwarranted and so on. One really needs to be on top of everything with these guys.

I hope the person got out OK and it did not completely ruin his day. Maybe he is brave enough to file a complaint against these two clowns.


Yellow jacketed bicycle officers are Uniformed Division Secret Service. DC Police have blue jackets.

I've got to say though - without seeing the beginning or end of the confrontation there's really no way to judge this situation, other than noting the officer may not be up to date on current DC bike registration laws. For all you know he could have just ridden up to the officers and started making threats - anyone who has spent any time in Farragut Square will tell you there's no shortage of mentally ill &/or drug addled folks on bikes in this town :)

Social Security number and Occupation?? Sounds to me like they were a couple of con artists trying to steal the guy's identity. If a couple of people dressed officially came up and started pushing me around for no reason or wrong reasons (which though it happens, it should be expected that *real* enforcement officers wouldn't do) and demanding private information like by SSN, I'd call 911.

Yeah, I agree with ontarioroader about the lack of context, but SS#? Is that even legal - unless they're with the Social Security Police or the IRS?

Right, I realize that I only saw a snippet of it, so I can't comment too much on it. But I did see police making threats and overstepping their legal authority, so I wanted to make sure everyone was aware and knew their rights. Also, the guy they were interrogating just looked like someone on their way to work, not some ranting lunatic.

I ride in that area all the time and have not been stopped or seen anyone else, either. I wonder what set the cops off like that (so I won't do it. )

This sounds crazy to me. Why would the cops care if I carry a lock or if I have a job.

I would have told them to write me a ticket. Then they would have to spend time in court and explain the silly harrassment. I certainly would not have played their game. For those of you not old enough to remember, this is America. You have rights.

I am too old and proud of my rights to be pushed around by cops trying to turn this country into a bannana republic.

I agree, we don't really know what precipitated this confrontation. Maybe he ran the light? There' just no way to know. The only defense now a days is video - it's always going to be our word against theirs, and they will always win unless you defend yourself by having video. Here's an instance where video helped to get a bad cop off the streets: http://gothamist.com/2008/07/28/cop_caught_on_video_assaulting_cycl.php

What are one's rights in this situation? Can the cops really demand identification, and are bound to show it to them?

The cops have no right to demand that a random person identify himself. However, if you commit an offense they can detain you until your identity can be established. In DC you will be generally be taken to jail if you commit a traffic offense and can't provide identification. However, identification doesn't have to be a driver's license; asking his social security number and verifying it with a third party is a legitimate way of identifying him that saves everyone a trip downtown.

In general, your consitutional rights are sharply curtailed while operating a vehicle, thanks to a couple of court decisions. The Supreme Court acknowledged in Whren that "the use of automobiles is so heavily and minutely regulated that total compliance with traffic and safety rules is nearly impossible, a police officer will almost invariably be able to catch any given motorist in a technical violation." And then they said it doesn't matter, a violation is a violation. They also found recently (I forget the case) that you don't have to be actually violating the law to be stopped -- all that matters is that the officer have a good-faith belief that you are violating the law. In addition, they found that there is no presumption that police officers have any more legal knowledge than ordinary citizens.

It's an interesting pair of cases. Whren says that good faith is not a necessary condition of a legal traffic stop, the cops can pull you over for any reason at all if they can think of some law you might be violating. The other case says that good faith is a sufficient condition for a traffic stop to be legal. It doesn't matter if they're wrong about the law if they're honest in their belief.

So if these officers honestly believed that DC still had a registration requirement, they would be permitted to stop a cyclist and detaining him until he was able to identify himself -- even if they cared not about whether he was registered, they just wanted to hassle him.

A particular hazard that we cyclists face is the widespread ignorance among both the police and the general public about the laws that we operate under.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Banner design by creativecouchdesigns.com

City Paper's Best Local Bike Blog 2009


 Subscribe in a reader