Memorial for cyclist marred by SFPD harassment

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Shahum was still visibly disturbed by the behavior of Sgt. Ernst more than an hour later.
Steven T. Jones

A memorial and informational event this morning at the 6th and Folsom corner where a bicyclist was fatally run over by a truck last week was marred by a tense and unsettling confrontation with an SFPD sergeant who showed up to block the bike lane with his cruiser, lecture the cyclists, and blame the victim.

The event was organized by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to raise awareness of the incident and that dangerous intersection and to call for the city to make improvements. It included friends and co-workers of 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac, who was riding in the Folsom Street bike lane on the morning of Aug. 14 when an unidentified delivery truck driver turned right onto 6th Street, across her path, and ran her over.

SFPD Sgt. Dennis Toomer tells the Guardian that the department has completed the traffic incident report, information from which can only be shared with the parties involved, but that the investigation of the fatality is still ongoing and will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review once it's done.

But SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum said that SFPD Sgt. Richard Ernst, who showed up at the event a little before 9am, had already drawn his own conclusions about the crash and showed up to make his apparent disdain for “you people,” bicyclists, disturbingly clear.

Shahum said that she tried to be diplomatic with Ernst and asked him to please move his patrol car out of the bike lane and into an available parking space that was right next to it, saying that it presented an unnecessary hazard to bicyclists riding past.

But she said Ernst refused to do so for almost 10 minutes, telling the group that he has “a right” to leave his car than and that he was “making the point that bicyclists need to move around” cars parked in bike lanes, according to Shahum’s written account, which she prepared to file a report about the incident with the Office of Citizens Complaints.

“He then told me explicitly that he ‘would not leave until’ I ‘understood’ that ‘it was the bicyclist’s fault.’ This was shocking to hear, as I was told just a day ago by Commander [Mikail] Ali that the case was still under investigation and no cause had yet been determined,” Shahum wrote.

And apparently Ernst didn’t stop at denouncing Le Moullac for causing her own death, in front of people who are still mourning that death. Shahum said Ernst also blamed the other two bicyclist deaths in SF this year on the cyclists, and on “you people” in the SFBC for not teaching cyclists how to avoid cars.

“I told him the SF Bicycle Coalition does a significant amount of safety work educating people biking and driving about sharing the road, and that I’d be happy to share more information with him. I again urged him to move his car out of the bike lane. He again refused, saying it was his right and he wasn’t moving until I ‘understood,’” Shahum wrote.

Shahum said there were multiple witness to the incident, including three television reporters who were there to cover the event.

“In addition to the Sgt’s inappropriate and dangerous behavior of parking his car in the bike lane and blocking safe passage for people bicycling by, it was deeply upsetting to see him unnecessarily disrupt and add tension to what was already an emotional and difficult time for many people who lamented this sad loss of life,” Shahum wrote.

Asked about the actions and attitudes expressed today by Ernst, who we could not reach for comment, Sgt. Toomer told us he “cannot talk about personnel issues.”

Compounding Ernst’s insensitive and judgmental approach today, it also appears the SFPD may have failed to properly investigate this incident, which Shahum and the SFBC have been tracking closely, and she said the SFPD told her that there were no video surveillance tapes of the collision.

After today’s event, SFBC's Marc Caswell decided to check in at businesses on the block to see if they had any video cameras aimed at the intersection, and he found an auto body business at the intersection whose workers said they did indeed have revealing footage of the crash that the SFPD hasn’t requested, but which SFBC today delivered to investigators.

“He had the time to come harass us as a memorial, but he didn’t have the time to see if anyone had footage of this incident. It’s very unsettled,” Shahum told us.

Whoever was ultimately at fault in this collision and others that have injured or killed bicyclists in San Francisco, today’s confrontation demonstrates an unacceptable and dangerous insensitivity and animosity toward bicyclists in San Francisco, which was also on display in the comments to the post that I wrote last week about the incident.

It’s fine to debate what happens on the streets of San Francisco, and you can even harbor resentments toward bicyclists and believe that we deserve your ire. But when you endanger people’s lives to make a point, or when you threaten violence against vulnerable road users, then you’ve gone too far.

Yes, let’s talk about what happens on the roads and how to improve behaviors, but let’s not forget our humanity in the process.  

Comments

position. We do not yet know whether this accident was the fault of the driver or the cyclist, or perhaps just a genuine no-fault accident. Yet reading Steven here and SF Streetsblog, it is clear that the bike lobby have already made up their mind.

Civility starts with respect for the police and, having met a number of people in SFBC, and encountered their strident, often shrieky demeanor, it would not shock me if Shahum didn't show appropriate respect for authority.

Oh, and a police car can go wherever it wants in the pursuit of law enforcement, and that includes bike lanes and bus lanes.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

"respect for the police", "appropriate respect for authority","police car can go wherever it wants in the pursuit of law enforcement"

What do these phrases have in common?

They are the ramblings of the perfect subject of the authoritarian police state.

Oh, by the way, the article makes clear that the police were not in pursuit when they decided to block the bike lane to make their point about their unaccountable power, innocent bike riders be damned.

We'll park our car where we want because we are the police and we'll fuck you up if you stand up to us.

In the words of the above commenter, bah. eieio

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

as close to the demonstration as possible.

If you call the cops because your house is being robbed, do you want the cops to circle around until they find a legal parking spot?

No, didn't think so.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

One case is an emergency, the other is not. I don't mind cops parking wherever they want when responding to an emergency. But we've all seen cops just plow through stop signs and blatantly disregard speed limits even when there is no emergency. I've seen them lazily cruise along and run stop signs at will, and we all know it's just to give the public a big, long middle finger. We're cops, and we can do whatever we want, whenever we want, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

Go take your hate out on - I don't know - criminals?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:54 pm

I know I have no credibility with *you* personally, troll. But I'm not writing for *you*, you don't speak for "here" in the general sense, so I don't give a shit what you think.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:27 pm

nobody will take any notice of you when you post on that topic because you are a broken record with a documented history of bias and prejudice.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

One single article about a single incident does not = down on cops all the time.

The primary flaw in the logic applied by the 'Guest' and 'anon' who are trying to refute the article, is that they frame the police as victims whose perspective continually are not allowed to voice their points of view in public debates such as these.

On the contrary, it is typically the Police perspective that is typically regarded as the ONLY perspective which is credible, and opinions of non-authority figures (read: regular citizens) are seen as less important.

It is healthy to question every point of view that is presented to you, regardless of origin, but it is imperative that we try to understand the context as well as societal prejudices that we bring to the table before we can truly assess the situation.

Plenty of officers both support bikes and are bicyclists themselves; it was clear -to me at least- that the author's intent was never to disparage all law enforcement personnell

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

I cannot recall a single time you have ever expressed support for a cop here.

Therefore the fact that you disapprove of the cop's behaviour here is irrelevant because of previously established bias on the topic.

I don't think you even ride a bike or care about cycling. you just leap on any opportunity to be down on cops.

Shame on you.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

expressed support for cops. He is too modest to admit to his community activism in support of underweight cops. That is, his foundation entitled, "Skinny Cop, Free Donuts".

On the other hand, I never recall a single time that anon expressed support for working class people (especially food servers) or blacks or "hispanics".

Since the vast majority of people are working class or black or hispanic or food servers, anon's comments are irrelevant here.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 8:26 pm

Your commentary is a broken record of bootlicking memes in sycophantic praise of authority, so I think your credibility is pretty shot.

I am actually an avid cyclist. I'm not always on the bike side of the debate though. I think there are rude motorists, rude bicyclists, and pedestrians who abuse their privileged position under the law. I think all the sides make some good (and bad) points, but I'll tell you, the trolls on this site (read: YOU) are such a ridiculous caricatures of themselves, that it's hard not to come down squarely on the side of the bikers after reading some of the outrageous things you post.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 8:34 pm

what Greg posted about cops, but here you are, taking notice. Do you ever remember what you post, or is that another "anon"? Or is it, as I expect, that in your rush to attack and say anything to elicit a reaction, you often do not realize what you have posted before?

One can easily turn your claim that what Greg posts here is irrelevant due to his bias toward you and your posts.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

massive, hateful bias against cops, so that they would not read his criticism of cops here as having any bearing in truth.

He's simply an opportunistic cop hater.

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 6:41 am

and are now trying to make an excuse for your faulty logic and actions by stating you wanted to "make sure other readers were aware" of Greg's supposed hatred of the cops. Fail.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 7:03 am

that Greg had credibility and objectivity on this issue.

He does not. QED.

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 7:28 am

Everyone knows that a boot-licking toady does not have any objectivity either.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 4:38 pm

Greg has no credibility and objectivity on this issue? They need you to tell them what to think? Are you not always complaining about how progressives are telling people how to think?

I can tell you that from reading your comments on this thread, I do not think you have any credibility or objectivity on the issue. However, I will let others come to their own decisions about that, risk or not.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 6:40 pm

I think that you are a boot-licking cop-loving toady that has no business telling anyone, least of all progressives, what they should think about anything.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 6:54 pm

that I am obsessed with the man and want nothing more on this earth than to drink his piss.

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

One single article

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 7:16 pm
Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

It's a bootlicking sycophantic screed.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 7:19 am

hateful, snide and hopelessly partisan.

But at least I support law and order.

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 7:33 am

You are a boot-licking toady.

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 4:36 pm

Just what the city needs.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

Go brush your teeth. Your breath stinks you boot licking toady.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 5:52 pm

Your are so ignorant that you don't even know who Patrick Henry is. He was one of the founders of our Country, you boot-licking toady.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 5:53 pm

I am sure that this will work and many visitors will think that same thing!

Posted by Martin on Jan. 31, 2014 @ 7:57 am

many of us do pay attention to what greg is saying, some because he is consistent with his distrust of cops

a person who doesn't like cops has good reasons for this . cops are becoming more and more arrogant and militarized not only in their approach to crime, but in their approach to everyone who is not a cop . many of us have seen the long side of their batons for daring to speak out ... not for committing crimes

many of us have seen the inside of jails not for committing crimes, but because some jerk cop felt like 'teaching us a lesson' about daring to exercise our constitutional right to question their authority ... not different to what ernst did in this situation

ernst proved himself a bully . he acted like a bully . he abused his power as a cop to do this, which is not only wrong but actually a violation of his oath

with all the evidence at our fingertips which proves that, in general, cops are not to be trusted, having a bias against cops is way more reasonable than not having that bias : even supposedly 'good' cops will not step up to protect an innocent person from abuse by a bad cop . that makes 'em both bad, in case you cannot process that type of logic

Posted by wiseoldsnail on Aug. 24, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

reasonable? Well, gee, I'm shocked.

But I'm sure you won't be shocked to hear that I'd value more the opinions of people who don't get on the wrong side of the law.

Cop-haters undermine our safety and our society. I have encountered nothing but civility and service from our police. Could it be that maybe I treat them with respect and so get respect back? Whereas you get in their face and, not surprisingly, they respond adversely?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 24, 2013 @ 4:16 pm

I have never been accused or convicted of a crime and have never in any way fallen on the wrong side of the law, and I think that you have consistently come across as a banal broken record, someone who will bludgeon one trifling point with such stubbornness that by the end he isn't even saying anything, just hurling insults.

Never once have I run afoul of police, besides a ticket for an expired inspection sticker in which the officer was incredibly respectful and even expressed a lighthearted sense of humor. But as a counterweight to this, every single day I see police cruisers run stop signs, park illegally with no sign of emergency, run red lights without even bothering to (illegally) turn their lights on just for that purpose, and abuse every privilege they are given in the name of actually protecting the people or pursuing criminals. Once I saw a cop pull up to a red light and cross the stop line, blocking the crosswalk, which a pedestrian was actually trying to cross at that moment. He blocked the guy's path and made him stop in the middle of the road while he edged slowly out into the intersection, and then after all that, flat-out ran the light which was still red. No lights, no sirens.

I live by the law every single day and I see police officers not doing the same. They don't even bother to pretend there's cause anymore. Do I think these are all police? No. But as long as a single cop thinks he or she can act with complete disregard for the law, then sadly, it doesn't matter that there are good cops. Because that one is out there needlessly endangering people and eroding the good will of the community.

I can't believe that you call yourself an avid cyclist, but you are on here childishly insulting the author and everyone who disagrees with you, ignoring the fact that A COP WAS HARRASSING CYCLISTS AT THE MEMORIAL OF A DEAD CYCLIST. That is completely indefensible.

Posted by Hezaa on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 8:15 am

To bad that we must read this kind of sad stories. The article is somehow interesting!

Posted by yachtbooker on Jan. 31, 2014 @ 12:17 am

Soooo, "Guest"; apparently you feel YOU are the arbiter of credibility. Let me disabuse you of that delusion -- you're not. AND you're wrong in what you're saying. Police do NOT have that level of all-encompassing authority, and in the example HERE, the cop was 100% wrong. ESPECIALLY since he was DOING it to make a political point.

Posted by MarkB on Sep. 21, 2013 @ 6:54 pm

"But we've all seen cyclists just plow through stop signs and blatantly disregard speed limits even when there is no emergency. I've seen them lazily cruise along and run stop signs at will, and we all know it's just to give the public a big, long middle finger".

You accidentally substituted "cops" for "cyclists" Greg. Fixed it for you.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

pet hates, like with cops, Asians, Christians and anyone who is successful.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

Cyclists are ticketed at a relative rate of several times motorists, yet the cops get to break the law without any justification, because they feel like it at the time with no accountability.

Public safety employees should follow a work plan that is more detailed than "do whatever you please." Resources are scarce and we need to be smart about policing. The SFPD has proven that they are incompetent at that.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:50 pm

transgress the law more. That is certainly the perception of many San Franciscans. For a start, they never stop at a stop sign.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:56 pm

Where the heck did you get that cyclists are ticketed at a rate of several times motorists? Just because your friends get ticketed for running red lights and stop signs does not mean that it happens at a rate more often than motorists.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 8:15 pm

Bullshit. "Cyclists are ticketed at a relative rate of several times motorists". Only 1% of the tickets written by SFPD in 2011 went to bicyclists.

http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/editorials/article/New-attitudes-would-hel...

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 10:36 pm

Does anyone really trust the SFPD to tell the truth? Seriously?

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 8:10 am

invited people to express their trust in and support for SFPD, it would be a very high approval number. Certainly higher than one for, say, the progressives who like to constantly undermine those who protect us.

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 8:18 am

Only boot licking toady's like you support SFPD.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

The police officers that people criticize are not those who protect us. They are the ones who use their position as one giant fringe benefit, as a means to be above the law themselves, and as a means to have power over the people around them and use that power any way they feel like. They give the police who ARE there to protect us a bad name. I don't understand why you are on here trolling this board and blaming the people who are angry about this incident, when the ones creating a bad name for the police are in the police force.

The job of the police force is to protect and to serve. Not themselves - everyone. It is not to yell at people gathered for a memorial and tell them that their dead friend is to blame, without even pretending that they are there for a matter of public safety. A police officer has no business pulling up to any gathering and expressing a personal opinion. They are public employees on the job. There was not even a pretense that anyone was breaking a law, or a rule, or acting unsafely, or anything that would give an officer cause to intervene.

It doesn't matter how you feel about him blocking a bike lane. The officer stopped and took time out of his job to make a personal argument that had no bearing on law or safety, and that is a misuse of municipal time and money. This is a government employee wasting tax dollars and getting paid to not do his actual job.

Posted by Hezaa on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 8:32 am

How do you know there is no emergency????

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 1:21 am

the questions you pose to other commenters on their behalf.

Or do you just talk to yourself online?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

I'm sorry the truth is inconvenient for your preferred ideological narrative.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

There was a parking spot *right* next to where he double-parked in the bike lane. And it was not an emergency: he even said he was there because, by his own twisted logic, he was trying to show everyone that see, bicyclists can indeed going around a car in the bike lane.

Posted by jd on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 2:13 am

There was a parking spot *right* next to where he double-parked in the bike lane. And it was not an emergency: he even said he was there because, by his own twisted logic, he was trying to show everyone that see, bicyclists can indeed going around a car in the bike lane.

Posted by jd on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 2:14 am

But it was a situation judged to warrant attention and intervention.

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 6:27 am
Posted by John Murphy on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 9:44 am

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