Data Shows LA Sheriff's Department Is Stopping Tons Of Latino Bicyclists, Rarely Finding Anything Illegal

from the nothing-lousier-than-a-biased-dragnet dept

Law enforcement doesn't just engage in pretextual stops of cars. Bicyclists are on the radar as well, especially if they happen to be minorities. That's according to data obtained by the Los Angeles Times, which shows the LA Sheriff's Department (which has buried the needle on the far end of "problematic" for years) is targeting bike riders with tactics that fall somewhere between pretextual stop and stop-and-frisk.

A Los Angeles Times investigation found deputies search 85% of bike riders they stop even though they often have no reason to suspect they’ll find something illegal. Most bicyclists were held in the backseat of patrol cars while deputies rummaged through their belongings or checked for arrest warrants.

The Times' analysis of more than 44,000 bike stops logged by the Sheriff’s Department since 2017 found that 7 of every 10 stops involve Latino cyclists, and bike riders in poorer communities with large nonwhite populations are stopped and searched far more often than those in more affluent, whiter parts of the county.

Because they're not in vehicles, but rather on them, the stops are more analogous to Terry stops, which are supposed to be supported by reasonable suspicion. Bikes make that rights-skirting math even easier by introducing a set of obscure, rarely enforced traffic laws to use as pretexts for stops that often tend to end with a search of the rider and any belongings they have with them.

Some cyclists interviewed by the Times said they had been stopped on multiple occasions. Most found the stops -- for harmless infractions like missing reflectors or riding on a sidewalk (bike lanes are still pretty much a luxury in most of the county) -- made them feel angry or humiliated. Many respondents also recognized the stops for what they were, no matter what was said by deputies performing stops: fishing expeditions targeting minority bike riders.

Deputies seem to operate with the assumption that someone riding a bike by choice is a criminal.

Many bicyclists said they were asked if they were on probation or parole and if they had drugs or weapons. The Sheriff's Department data mirror their experiences. Deputies asked 93% of riders about their probation or parole status.

This low-level oppression has resulted in a sort of defeatism taking hold in those harassed by officers.

Some cyclists shrugged off the encounters as an inconvenience that comes with living in high-crime neighborhoods.

This is something cops argue in court, often successfully. But nowhere in the Bill of Rights does it say these rights don't need to be respected in areas that criminals frequent.

The Sheriff's Department has defended the biased bike stop program as essential to fighting crime, claiming (unbelievably) that people using bikes for transportation are generally criminals.

Lt. Lorena Rodriguez, a department spokeswoman, said riding a bike allows criminals “to traverse a neighborhood unnoticed, faster and safer than on foot, and additionally makes it easier to avoid police contact. We are not conducting traffic stops of persons obviously engaged in the use of a bicycle for exercise or amusement.”

But if cyclists are generally criminals, the Sheriff's Department sucks at sniffing out criminal activity. Deputies perform a lot of stops. But they don't do much actual crimefighting.

For all the stops and searches, deputies rarely catch criminals. During searches, they find illegal items just 8% of the time, The Times’ analysis shows. Weapons were seized just 164 times — less than half a percent of all searches.

The Department's justification for stopping and searching so many bicyclists doesn't hold up. There's nothing about the end result that suggests targeting cyclists for minor violations is taking dangerous criminals off the street. All it's doing is allowing deputies to engage in fishing expeditions that overwhelmingly target a single demographic. It's far easier than stopping cars, and the county's bike laws help ensure there's always a reason to stop someone, even if issuing fix-it tickets is generally understood by deputies to be largely beside the point. It's an easy bake recipe for rights violations that will rarely be challenged in court, either by criminal defendants or plaintiffs in civil suits.

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Filed Under: bike stops, lasd, police, pretextual stops


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  1. identicon
    Pixelation, 18 Nov 2021 @ 5:06pm

    "Data Shows LA Sheriff's Department Is Stopping Tons Of Latino Bicyclists, Rarely Finding Anything Illegal"

    Well, obviously, they need to be doing more cavity searches!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2021 @ 5:41pm

    Re:

    I'd agree a cavity search by a deputy only when the deputy showed me his DDS or DMD diploma and scheduled me 2 weeks in advance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 18 Nov 2021 @ 5:55pm

    'We're stopping them for the crime of biking while latino.'

    Lt. Lorena Rodriguez, a department spokeswoman, said riding a bike allows criminals “to traverse a neighborhood unnoticed, faster and safer than on foot, and additionally makes it easier to avoid police contact. We are not conducting traffic stops of persons obviously engaged in the use of a bicycle for exercise or amusement.”

    Which of course explains why they're flailing around and desperately hoping that the person they're harassing has done something wrong or is carrying something they can nail them for after they've already stopped them.

    Many bicyclists said they were asked if they were on probation or parole and if they had drugs or weapons. The Sheriff's Department data mirror their experiences. Deputies asked 93% of riders about their probation or parole status.

    This is racism mixed with a healthy dose of fishing expeditions, 'harassment because we can' and padding their numbers and has bugger all to do with preventing or catching crime.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    David, 18 Nov 2021 @ 6:30pm

    Missing the forest for the trees.

    Deputies seem to operate with the assumption that someone riding a bike by choice is a criminal.

    No, the target are not the people riding a bike by choice (like yuppie bike riders on expensive bikes). The target are people riding a bike because they don't have the money to pay for a car. Because that means by extension that they don't have the money to pay for a civil rights violation lawsuit, either.

    It's like the guy helping a drunk search for his keys and finally asking "are you sure you lost your keys here?". "No, over there, but here the light is much better and I'd get mud on my shoes over there."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2021 @ 6:44pm

    "For all the stops and searches, deputies rarely catch criminals. During searches, they find illegal items just 8% of the time, The Times’ analysis shows. Weapons were seized just 164 times — less than half a percent of all searches."

    They REPORT finding illegal items just 8% of the time. Cops get High and steal guns just like everyone else, or they are just making some extra cash from selling under reported confiscated stuff.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 19 Nov 2021 @ 12:22am

    Re: Re:

    "I'd agree a cavity search by a deputy only when the deputy showed me his DDS or DMD diploma and scheduled me 2 weeks in advance."

    I'd normally agree...but given that it's the US we're talking about what you meant to say was; "I'll agree to a cavity search by a deputy only by providing reasonable suspicion by refusing one because I enjoy being held down by four other deputies while said cavity search is performed"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 19 Nov 2021 @ 12:26am

    Re: Missing the forest for the trees.

    "No, the target are not the people riding a bike by choice"

    I could be missing my guess, not being american...but if the target is latino and bike riders in Los Angeles then surely the poor deputies will need some way to winnow down the number of people they need to search? I'm sure that targeting only the ones not wearing and riding expensive brands is just an unfortunate coincidence.

    /s because, you know, the alt-right probably has even more insane explanations. Like every latino on a bike being a drug-addled trafficker with Ruger Redhawk shoved up their skintight spandex and a kidnapped child folded up under their helmet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Nov 2021 @ 2:00am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Hey I remember that story & that they had the nerve to send him a bill for his medical torture.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Nov 2021 @ 2:01am

    "But nowhere in the Bill of Rights does it say these rights don't need to be respected in areas that criminals frequent."

    And yet when was the last time someone stopped and frisked Rand Paul?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    me, 19 Nov 2021 @ 5:11am

    Re: Missing the forest for the trees.

    Because Yuppies on expensive bikes can sue and make a stink. I would.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    David, 19 Nov 2021 @ 5:31am

    Re:

    "Illegal items" likely includes cash suspected of drug dealing. I am sure once you confine "illegal" to items leading to a criminal conviction, the numbers will look a lot different.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Ed (profile), 19 Nov 2021 @ 7:45am

    ACAB

    There's no other reason.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    btr1701 (profile), 22 Nov 2021 @ 12:10pm

    "Harmless Infractions"

    for harmless infractions like missing reflectors or riding on a sidewalk

    Harmless, huh? I know you guys like to minimize crime so as to make the actions of cops seem more egregious but it's becoming ridiculous.

    My next-door neighbor spent the better part of week in the hospital with a fractured skull when he was hit and slammed into a wall by an asshole riding his bike on the sidewalk which is illegal for a reason and far from harmless. And he's not the only one who has been significantly injured by sidewalk-riding cyclists lately. A woman in Manhattan Beach was left with a broken leg and some cracked ribs by a bike-riding idiot on the sidewalk. And the problem is only getting worse with the proliferation of e-bikes that can reach traffic speeds and which are being ridden by kids and teenagers without the maturity to realize how dangerous their behavior is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2021 @ 2:49pm

    Re: "Harmless Infractions"

    Cool story bro

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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