Saturday, January 30, 2010

When The Truth Doesn't Matter

I'm left wondering what to do when the truth doesn't seem to matter to those sworn to uphold the law and dispense justice. That question has me at a crossroads.

The question arises from the latest incident in which my hand was hit by a car. The report for that incident says that I hit the car rather than the other way around. Not only that, but the report says I admitted that I punched the car. My statements say nothing of the kind. My only solace is that my statement was recorded, so what I said should not be in dispute. Therein lies the problem, the New Berlin Police Department says the report will not be amended. This, even though they know it contains incorrect statements.

When I started this blog 2 years ago I never imagined I'd run into a such a wall of contempt thrown up by those people who are supposed to protect the public. I've run into that wall repeatedly, not just in this case and not just in this jurisdiction. I persevered thinking it would have to get easier. I was wrong. This latest incident has led me to the end of this road.

I believed that I was doing the right thing by calling the police when someone committed some violation of the law that affected me. Judging by the reaction of most, but not all law enforcement officers I've contacted, apparently I was not. I don't know what action I was supposed to take or what action I will take in the future, but involving the police will be a last resort, rather than a first choice.

In the beginning I really thought that if I had proof, video evidence, of just how bad some drivers treat bicyclists, law enforcement would have to help me, that they would have to treat me fairly. That is just not the case. Contacting the authorities usually results in me getting lectured about my riding, but results in few, if any, consequences for the offending driver.

I will continue to roll the cameras every time I ride. I will post the videos on the blog, although I don't hold any illusions that the blog will generate enough publicity to shame drivers into doing the right thing. At least if a driver I encounter should injure or kill another rider there will be a record that they were reckless around bikes in the past.

Unfortunately, the question is still nagging at me as I think about future rides. What happens next time I'm hit by a car, and they hit more than my hand? What happens when the people who will investigate are some of the same people for whom the truth doesn't seem to matter?



Dave said...

First let me say that I'm a fellow biker/commuter that has experienced some of this. (and it really only takes ONE time for it to all end in tragedy) I totally understand why you're doing it.

When the police do stuff like this (allowing incorrect wording in light of a recorded statement?? WTF?) it's demoralizing. Keep after it.

Now please take this as constructive criticism. I know that getting a brush-by immediately sends the adrenaline through the roof. Been there myself.

But yelling "What the hell!" or something like that at the top of your lungs when it's recorded might actually work against you in the eyes of the law. It's possible they see you as a whack-job and immediately discount your side upon hearing that. I'm not sure confronting the driver helps in these situations.

I could be wrong. I totally support your cause and willingness to tape it. However, in watching the videos, your reactions could seem over-the-top and even provocative in terms of confrontation. I don't think that helps in the police's eyes.

That aside, it's clear the police don't understand or care about bicycle laws. Maybe that's not true in all cases, but it seems like it.

I'd like to see a recap of your events in this case on and hear what their advice is on the matter.

I don't know if we can ever reach the police in getting them to understand or be sympathetic to bicycles on the road.

It would take more concerted effort on part of the Bicycle Federation, 3 Feet Please or others to create a campaign to educate the police chiefs around the state... a huge undertaking but perhaps worth pursuing. Maybe even getting bicycle policemen from Milwaukee or other municipalities to share their knowledge of the laws and/or experiences could help with credibility in the eyes of fellow officers?

At any case, keep up the good fight. One person doing this is great, but more would be better. Let us know your thoughts.

Jeff said...

Thanks for your thoughts. Believe me I wish I hadn't yelled anything, but when your life is flashing before you sometimes things just come out. Sometimes I yell in place of a horn, but in this case what I yelled was just a result of shock/adrenaline. I honestly thought I was going to the hospital or worse.

I guess if you have a bias, you could think my yelling was provocative, but since I didn't yell until AFTER the driver started making the crazy pass and hitting me I don't think that point of view holds water.

Again thanks for the thoughts.

Dave said...

I totally understand. I've yelled in similar ways too. And you're right, it is after-the-fact and it shouldn't matter.

But it -- or something -- must matter to the police because time and time again, here and in other states/cities, they side with the motorist. Often times in spite of the law. (Try telling a cop he doesn't know the law. When it comes to bicycle law... he probably doesn't!)

There are times I wish I had a camera on the front/rear of my bike as you do to capture idiocy on tape. I'd hate to think it makes no difference whatsoever.

We just somehow have to broaden the message, to get other bikers to convey the message in a productive way to the police.

Myself and others need to find ways to join you in your fight, because it's one worth fighting for.

forrest said...

it might be time to turn to the media.

Dave said...

Anonymous said...

Try actually riding your bike. It's fun.