07 April 2008

No bike light = no 4th amendment protections: harassing the homeless

Short version:
Homeless people can't afford and don't have bike lights; this is a vehicle code violation so police can use it as a pretext for stopping homeless people on bikes and then look through their stuff for drugs or open containers.

The homeless person is then required to pay a fine the can't afford or go to court which they rarely do ... then they are assigned an arrest warrant by the judge for failing to appear creating more fines and allowing more frequent police harassment.

This is how we help people off the streets ... an into jail cells. They're constantly setup for failure. Classy, eh?

Police Use Obscure Vehicle Code Violations to Target the Poor
By R. Konrad Moore

Los Angeles Daily Journal, Page 6, 4/4/2008

Want to start reducing arbitrary persecution
of the homeless? Give free bicycle headlamps to the poor. It's no joke.

Never been stopped by the police for riding a bicycle at night
without a headlamp or for riding on the wrong side of the road? Well,
you probably live in a nice neighborhood, or maybe you just ride
against traffic because it's safer. The police probably recognize you
as a good and trustworthy citizen.

Isn't it illegal for police to racially profile, or for that matter, to stop people because they are poor? It is.

But just as there may be countless ways to skin a cat, there are
seemingly as many options for the police to target the poor. And target
they do. According to a 1996 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, the
subjective intent of an officer in making a stop is immaterial, so long
as he possesses an objectively lawful basis.

Subjective and
objective are interesting words, and the difference is worth
considering, unless perhaps you have a day job and have to work for a
living. Besides, what does it really matter? For those for whom the
system works, it doesn't matter. We wave when we see a police officer
and know he's out there to keep us safe.

However, if you are
poor, black or Hispanic, bike-riding often takes on a very different
meaning, particularly if you're like me and don't carry a wallet when
you exercise. It means that noncompliance with little-known provisions
of the California Vehicle Code subjects you to being stopped and

Left unsaid is
that the rest of us aren't stopped. Middle-class America remains free
to get our exercise, and enjoy the breeze as it blows through our hair.
We have enough anxiety without having to worry if the police will stop
us on some trumped-up charge.

Further, what's wrong with
conscientious officers being ambitious enough to enforce the laws, all
of them, especially if it leads to the apprehension of a criminal? Even
if they are minor infractions, it's good police work.

police work - until one considers all those noncriminals who are
stopped and searched by the police. All those who don't end up in court
because they didn't have drugs on them or an outstanding warrant. But
for living in a better neighborhood, they might have enjoyed their
evening just as you or I do, without the nerve-racking and humiliating
intrusion of being stopped and questioned by the police.

While the protestors' din will surely be forgotten, the next time
you're out on your bike enjoying the ride, consider that your poorer
neighbor may experience it very differently.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said my friend!