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A Bicycle Rider’s Troubling Brush with the SFPD in the Mission

Posted By Matthew Roth On April 1, 2010 @ 8:54 am In Bicycle Safety,SFPD | 41 Comments

Over on Change Your Life, Ride a Bike, Adrienne Johnson writes about a terrifying encounter [1] she had while riding a bicycle when a motorist behaved aggressively and then escalated with threats of violence. The motorist, according to Johnson, was an SFPD officer in an unmarked vehicle.

Johnson, a regular contributor of beautiful photos to our Flickr pool [2], explained the encounter [edited, read full version at her site]:

Last Saturday I had a very frightening encounter while riding on Valencia St. with my husband and older son. As we approached the intersection at 17th St. I found myself being cut off by a driver turning right, no signal. I was in that weird place where you can't stop but you are still behind the car, so I rang my bell a couple of times and gave a shout out. The driver slowed the car but kept moving, slowly enough for me to pass but fast enough to be nerve rattling. The windows were down on the car and I could see the driver and his two passengers looking out at me. They were paying so much attention to me, I was worried they didn't see James and Cameron behind me, so I told the driver there were two more bikes behind me and kept riding. I could hear the driver yell something at me in an angry voice. It sounded like he called me a bitch but I couldn't really hear him.

At this point I did something kind of dumb, I flipped him off. This wasn't the most intelligent thing, but at some point you just get sick of being called names for not wanting to be run over.

The car raced up next to me, just a little too close for comfort, to force me to slow down. I kept moving but he paced me. The driver leaned over his passenger and said "Shut your fucking mouth bitch or I'll knock you off your bike". He didn't yell it at me, he just stated it like there was no way it could be any other way, straight to my face. My nature is to not show fear, especially with people like this- I have found it makes them more bold. I looked right back at him ( I started taking note of all the details- the driver, the passenger in the back, the colour of the car....) and asked him if he would like me to call the police to report his harassing me? I got another "shut up bitch" and he started to drive away, slowly to see if I would try to pass him.

At that point I was just annoyed- I shouldn't have flipped him off, but he shouldn't have done any of the things he had done (I realized at this point that his almost right hooking me was not an accident). Then I saw what turned the whole thing very frightening- the car was an unmarked San Francisco Police car. Red and amber lights were in the rear window along with what looked like a police citation book.

I was completely floored. I had just been threatened and intimidated by a police officer. His partners in the car had done nothing to stop him. To top it off, this all happened not 100 feet from the Mission Police Station (which I turned around and went straight into to file a report which is now with the Office Of Citizen Complaints). The worst part was that from behind, both James and Cameron thought I was about to be run down in front of them (James pulled out his cell phone to start taking pictures). That was when I started shaking, just a little but for the next three hours.

I will not stop riding. It would take a hell of a lot more than this to stop me. I will not let this situation pass without making this officer face me and tell me why he thinks it is OK to threaten a woman with bodily harm in front of her family. I will fight back so that no one else has to deal with this.

Hardly the experience Streetsblog Editor Bryan Goebel had with SFPD Police Chief George Gascón last week riding through the Marina [3].

With regard to Johnson's experience, SFPD Spokesperson Lyn Tomioka said the department had no comment on current complaints or investigations. She did recommend that any San Franciscan should go through the Office of Citizen Complaints for allegations of police misconduct. "That's the process that keeps everyone accountable for their actions," she noted.

Complaints can be registered online [4], in person at 25 Van Ness, Suite 700, or by phone at 415-241-7711.


Article printed from Streetsblog San Francisco: http://sf.streetsblog.org

URL to article: http://sf.streetsblog.org/2010/04/01/a-bicycle-riders-troubling-brush-with-the-sfpd-in-the-mission/

URLs in this post:

[1] writes about a terrifying encounter: http://changeyourliferideabike.blogspot.com/2010/03/police-state.html

[2] our Flickr pool: http://www.flickr.com/groups/streetsblogsanfrancisco/

[3] riding through the Marina: http://www.streetfilms.org/sfpd-chief-sees-streets-of-san-francisco-by-bike/

[4] registered online: http://www.sfgov.org/site/occ_index.asp?id=445

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