Radical Bike Resources -- Advocacy -- Bicycle Civil Liberties Union (BCLU) -- BPD Meetings The Bicycle Civil Liberties Union The Bicycle Civil Liberties Union BPD-CRITICAL MASS PARTICIPANT MEETING MINUTES:

]From jmeggs-AT-bclu.org Wed Nov  7 18:51:52 2001
]Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 12:13:36 -0800 (PST)
]From: Jason Meggs [jmeggs-AT-bclu.org]
]Subject: Re: minutes and mtg availability?

Okay, the slumbering veloboy meggs has finally taken it upon himself to
review these shining gems of minutes from our silent champion, Eryn 

I really don't have time to do this but...it's important because Hester
said a lot of stuff at that meeting that I found outrageous.  Hopefully I
can include a good bit of it here.  Unfortunately, matching the order of
my notes to the order of Eryn's minutes is proving harder than it should
be.  Yikes!  Oh well.  

Solution: my comments are interspersed in brackets, and then my
main notes are following Eryn's minutes.


On Mon, 29 Oct 2001, Eryn wrote:

] Hello all,
] I attached the minutes from the last meeting so that you may propose
] editting before I post it to the Berkeleymass list serve.  I finished
] them sometime ago(and some of you have seen a paper copy), although did
] not have your emails in my inbox until Jason asked me to schedule this
] next meeting.  I have heard from Sgt. Wes Hester, Jr. and he plans on
] bringing officers with him (as previously discussed), and thinks a M-Th.
] morning scheduling will accomodate his group.  I applaud Jason's work
] of scheduling the initial meeting with the Bike Patrol Division of the
] Berkeley Police Department, as it leaves little work for me to do.  One
] reason I took the request was to help out, as best I can while in the
] middle of presentation time, and midterms during my senior year of college.
]  But, we all have busy schedules, so let's work together?
] Here's some options for meeting with Sgt. Wes Hester, Jr.  and some other
] officers.
] A.  We can meet same time, place, and day of the week (i.e. 8am, Au Coquelet,
] on thursday -Nov. 4 would give a week before the next Berkeley ride)
] B.  something you propose.
] I obviously, am in no position to facilitate the discussion, being silent;
] although I can take minutes, and learn a few things from each of you.
] Please make your opinions known to me - and/or the people in this email
] - by Wednesday, or we will certainly have to meet the same week as the
] critical mass.
] Here are the minutes.
] NBL,
] Eryn!
] Minutes: Critical mass Participants meet with Sergeant W.E.  Hester,
] Jr. SD-#1
] Meeting began at 8:34am on October 11, 2001 at Au Coquelet Caf in
] Berkeley, following an informal discussion amongst local bicyclists
] regarding agenda format.  All present were willing to make an audio
] recording of the meeting for future use, although Hester preferred to
] decline.  For this reason, only the quoted items are verbatim, and my
] note taking is a neutral perspective, remaining in outline format. Of
] those present, a sign-in sheet circled the table.  Some signed it and
] are referred to below by their first names(except Sergeant Hester
] whose first name is unknown); others that did not sign are referred to
] by (X).  Signatures include: Sean Potts, Susan McKay, Chris Will
] Spargur, Anna-Lisa Hoffman, Tom Martin, Dave Campbell, Eryn Hughes,
] and Jason Meggs.

(too bad about not being able to record it)

] I. Introductions commenced when Hester arrived and he passed around a
] photograph of the Bike Patrol division in plain clothes, that he supervises.
]  We all received his business cards.  Later during our meeting, Hester
] referred to his father^s past seat on Berkeley city council for
] administrative support.

[JASON] He said his father is why we have "all the bike laws in Berkeley"
(as if bike laws are a good thing).  I asked him if his father was the 
one who made them all misdemeanors (yes, jury trial for locking to a 
parking meter!) and he did not answer.  He also said he was meeting us 
not because the City Council directed the police to meet with us.

] II. Susan brought up her concern for the relations between cyclists
] and BPD, and asked what their official policies were regarding special
] treatment.

] A. Hester confirmed that he responds to rides individually.  He later
] referred to the rides as special events, and even parades.

]  1. Sean commented that all cyclists are Critical Massers.

] 2. Hester momentarily considered this comment, and then cited typical
] complaints made to them regarding the ride specifically.

] 3. Hester cited non-medicinal marijuana use during rides as the
] leading problem, and indecency [regarding indecent exposure] and
] volume of sound systems that he understands, "are illegal" are lesser
] problems.

] 4. Hester stated that the numbers of participants in the rides has created
] problems in the way that they carry out their duties.

] III.  Another cyclist (X) asked why the treatment of traffic violation
] claims against cyclists was inconsistent with those claims against motorists.

] A. A red light issue: (Susan) reasoned that stopping at red lights and
] disbanding the group created more congestion for motorists.

] B.Various cyclists clarified the similarities between motorist and cyclists^
] rights.

] 1. Tom commented that "We are traffic."

]  2. (X) Aggression by BPD can sometimes be interpreted as harassment.

]  3.  Susan stated that it is pragmatic to keep together.

] C. Hester clarifies the differences.

]  1.Hester confessed that he goes through red lights, too.  He justifies
] it.

]  2. Hester says that he can not authorize running red lights.

] 3.Hester stated that "it is impossible to get 60 people to cooperate...[so]^
] we get defensive".

] 4.Hester doesn^t want to waste funds. 

] 5.Hester provided that police decoys for motorists are located at University
] Ave. and Ashby Ave. near Alta Bates.

[JASON] He admitted that he can't cross the street unless he's in his
uniform, and that police conduct stings (sometimes) for pedestrian safety.

] D. Tom asks, "What do you want us to do?" in search of a verbal contract.

] 1. Hester repeats that he can not authorize running red lights.

] 2. Hester recommends a parade permit.

] 3. Hester recommends that cyclists do not continue back and forth in
] the Solano tunnel, or ride on the University Ave. I-80 overpass at all.

[JASON] Hester states that he doesn't agree that Critical Mass is a first
amendment event, unless "blocking traffic" is a form of expression.

] E. Jason asked if "there is not a first amendment right to block traffic,
] what is the proponent to [this decision]"?

[JASON] The above statement seems alien to me...I don't recall making it.  
"Proponent"?  Probably I was asking if he had a basis.  Hester told us to
consult the City Attorney.  

] 1. Hester stated that was why they handed out brochures in the recent
] past.

] 2. Tom asked why they chose to hand out brochures made by the AAA,
] when they could have just as easily handed out ones from the EBBC, and
] Hester confirmed that it was what they had on hand at the time.

] 3. Hester interpreted individual present and previous debates as, "you
] would prefer that we not be visible", and that is why their delegation
] of force has moved to side streets.

] 4. Chris commented that during rush hour in SF, motorists receive
] traffic support from local police at intersections.

] 5. Hester asks, "then let^s not go in circles" and Chris denies his
] individual participation.

] IV. Sean comments that Critical Mass rides demonstrate the use of
] civil liberties ^ specifically First Amendment right, it deserves
] constitutional recognition.

] A. Sean continues that they are held to raise awareness of lack of
] bike lanes, safety, etc.

] B. Sean asks why student marches are given special treatment on public
] streets.

] C. Hester stated that he is not a lawyer, and recommended obtaining
] legal advice from a professional at the individual^s expense.

] D. Tom reiterates his sentiment that cyclists deserve equal treatment
] and that "we are traffic", just in case Hester missed it the first
] time.

] E. Tom asks if Hester has access to statistics, and is referred to the
] Traffic Bureau.

] 1.  Specific cases are brought up simultaneously by different
] cyclists: Allston/Oxford and MLK, in August, where Officer Meredith
] and Officer Romano handled several citations and arrests
] confrontationally.

] 2.  Hester defended Meredith, by stating his own presence at the scene
] and that the civilian at Oxford and Allston had stopped traffic, ran
] lights, rode on sidewalks and evaded authorities when asked to pull over,
] to justify why Meredith "tackled the civilian^ and others^ to remove
] civilian".

[JASON] Hester admitted that those who were arrested may not have been
warned by officers.

] IV. Hester states that "sometimes people get pushed".

[JASON] Susan asks why so many officers -- sometimes 25-30 police. Heser
replies that he only has 12-15 at any time.  Jason doesn't get a chance to
mention that the news reporter over 70 police lying in wait at the March
ride, and that we've counted over 22 officers at times, e.g., at 6th and

] III. Chris asks why the department dispatches a Paddywagon.

] A.  Sean adds, "there has been an 8-year precedent of non-violence".
]  It seems  
]       confrontational to impose a paddywagon, "just in case".

] B. Hester says the Paddywagon is helpful to get into traffic.

[JASON] clarified, he said the paddywagon can't get there due to backed up
cars if there's an incident where they make a mass arrest, so they keep
it behind us for ready access at a moment's notice.

] IV. Anna-Lisa and Tom bring up safety and awareness issues.

] A.  Anna-Lisa feels unsafe riding on University Ave, and several cyclists
] agreed        
]       that the motor-traffic is not inclined to share the road, or the
] overpass.

] B.  (X) asks about the intersection and turn-off at Bancroft and Oxford/Fulton.
]  She    
]       comments that the city planning is insufficient to safe cycling.

] C.  Hester agrees that he doesn^t approve of the loose gravel, but that
] is not his  
]       department.

] D. Anna-Lisa states that she feels such behavior is unnecessary, and
] refers to her observation of a woman getting shoved around, regardless
] that the woman was cooperating.  It makes her feel unsafe.

] E.  (X) asks which way is appropriate to travel on one-way streets, in
] regards to the law and improvisations.

] F.  Sean says that Critical Mass can be interpreted as accident prevention,
] an intervention mechanism.

] 1.  Cars are made aware that bicyclists are on the road with them, and
] understand what bicycles do, better and hopefully become more cooperative
] towards sharing the streets.

]  2.  A cyclist^s ideal: BPD can consider both sides when at a crash scene,
] as opposed to making guilt assumptions towards cyclists^ fault.

] V. All agree that communication should be more regular.

] A.  Anna-Lisa says that we should have bi-monthly meetings with the Bike
] Patrol Department in Berkeley.

] B.  Hester says he will see to bringing some of his officers and motor
] officers.

] F. Several cyclists comment that we can bring more participants, with
] reasonable time.

] VIII. The group talks about the escalation of aggression, indications,
] and cyclists inquire about a written contract to make the rules more
] explicit.

] A. Hester said that he and his department takes action based on the individual
] and past situations.  

] B. Hester recommends a planned demonstration, and a parade permit.

] C. Hester^s example is the assumption of precipitated assault on August
] ride to Indian Rock, and says, "we all have bad days".

] D. Hester supports his assumptions with another example: when he witnessed
] an officer getting into an argument with City Councilmember Kriss Worthington,
] he pulled the officer away.

] E. Hester asks the group is we considered the treatment of Critical Mass
] ride in September, acceptable.

] 1. Hester would like to dispatch 2 motorcycles to follow the ride, as
] agreed previously.

] 2. Jason brought up the inconsistency in their agreement to further limit
] , reminding Hester that we saw the paddywagon riding at a distance on
] side streets, after their agreement *

] 3. Hester denied such an agreement, quickly stating that his end of the
] agreement was that while two motor officers would follow the ride - he
] would not engage further local resources.

[JASON] Jason responds that because Hester would not allow him to record
the call, he took very detailed notes, and understood explicitly that the
other officers simply were not going to be assigned.

] 4. Hester says that he would like to continue the trend of extending
] the 100-200 foot leash to our rides.

] a. Sean states that his use of the word, "leash" is unfriendly.

] b. Hester starts taking notes, pending resolution of the meeting.

[JASON] Jason asserts his concern again that Hester in his own words will
increase the aggression of the police in response to how the riders
behave, but has not provided any clear guidelines.  Jason says this is
unfair and unclear.  Jason requests a written document explaining the
police response to rider's actions.  He further asks, when can we tell
people it is safe to come on Berkeley Critical Mass without fear of being
run over or arrested?  When can children, grandmothers, moms, etc. feel
safe to come on Berkeley Critical Mass?

] c. He says, "as long as the rides continue as they did last time, we
] will not deter from the protocol".

[JASON] This to me was the most important thing he said.  "As long as the
continue along the same path as they did last month you won't have any
more problems with police".  He was indicating that our conduct on the
September 14 ride was sufficient to keep the police out of sight.

] 5. Sean (c/o Eryn^s vow of silence) asks if he would invite his friends
] and family to join the ride, and if he will.

] a. He says that he does not have many relatives in the area, but will
] invite some people.

] VI. The meeting ends at 10:15am


Some other important things which occurred in the meeting, which I'm not
sure where to patch in above:

1) Hester says they respond to citizen complaints.  Jason says Critical
Mass is in some senses 70 or so peopole complaining, and to weight that
against the few people on their cell phones who call in that the sky is
falling because there are bikes in the road.

2) Hester claimed that he doesn't issue written policies and directives,
which I know to be false, then he admitted he does.  But maintained that
he has nothing written to give to us about how police treat the rides.

3) Hester claimed he has rights the public doesn't have, to break traffic
laws.  He is correct, but was wrong in his notion of how much right he

4) Hester said that many of his officers don't enjoy following/dealing
with a "Civil disobedience" event, they'd rather be out chasing bank
robbers. "That's the fun stuff".

5) Hester admitted that the police "could certainly turn our heads" to the
"law breaking" which CM does.  He clarified that it "becomes a bigger deal
when lives are endangered".

6) I told Hester my condensced position regarding the right of bicyclists
to run stop signs and lights as a group at CM, including the flexibility
of the law and the discretion which officers have, and the fact taht it's
safer to let CM operate the way it does.  Hester had said that he feels
he's opening himself up to lawsuits by letting people do this "dangerous"
behavior, and I said I think the "legal" way is more dangerous and that he
may be opening himself up to more liability there.  Hester agreed that
there is written policy giving police discretion with regards to traffic

7) Hester agreed (after Sean commented that CM BErkeley has an "enormous
8.5 year history of peaceful rides) that most of the riders are not
aggressive, that "some individuals who ride with your group are and we
know who most of those people are".

8) Hester ignored the question of whether ANYONE at CM has been physically
aggressive.  I go on most every ride and have yet to see any significant
incident where anyone on the ride is physical with anyone else, in stark
contrast to the physical aggression of police and some motorists.

9) Hester claims that 3 officers were injured when I bring up the injury
of at least one rider in August.  He later admits that (at least one of
them) were not injured at Critical Mass!  The other two claim to be
injured evidently while chasing one of us down, which they shouldn't have
been doing to begin with.

10) Hester says he doesn't understand CM, why would people put themselves
in harm's way to make the point that they're in harm's way.  Sean Potts
responds that he feels much safer in CM and that it makes bicycles more
visible, which therefore makes motorists more aware of us and therefore
makes us safer.  Hester says "that makes sense. I understand a little bit
better now."

11) Tom Martin asks if there are any training programs hHester's officers
could take for bike rights, to really have a true understanding of urban
bicyclists.  Hester says NO, "I don't know of any training that addresses
that issue.  Why?"  I say three big reasons:  1) Fairness at crash scenes;
2) Less likely to issue false citations; 3) Less likely to be injured
themselves.  Sean Potts offers "We'd be happy to research" for such a
thing. Hester says he's trying to figure out the right forum -- the whole
City, just police, and would it be given by bicycle coalitions?  Then
Hester suggests that since he manages the bicycling detail, "maybe some of
htem should come to one of these meetings."  He also says "We should have
a basic understanding of the California Vehicle Code and Berkeley
Municipal Code".

12) Hester admits the police practice has been a waste of resources and
makes people feel uncomfortable.

13) The issue of motorists assaulting CM comes up.  Hester says "Let us
know when that happens and I will be happy to issue a citation and make an
arrest".  Jason comments that he has previously failed to execute a
citizen's arrest as required by law.  He says he doesn't want to bring up
the past.  Jason doesn't have the opportunity to ask how people would find
him, and whether his cell phone should be distributed.

14) A small number of the many examples of police ignoring attacks on CM
riders are mentioned.

15) Hester says, "Anyone assaulting anyone, that situation needs to be

16) Hester refers to his officers having "bad days" sometimes.  Sean Potts
says we need to see concrete ways that those "bad days" are being
addressed and that officers are told that "bad day" conduct is

17) Hester says "As riders you can take on responsibilty for encouraging
other riders not to be taunting motorists or riding in to oncoming
traffic."  He says it "gives the ride a bad name when some of that stuff"

18) I lament the fialure of past meeting about bicycle and pedestrian
issues with police, notably Captain Pittman. Hester smiles and says I'm
not the only one who has a hard time with PIttman.  He says however, "When
the shit hits the fan and the city's falling apart, Pittman's the one you
want at the helm".  I say from a bicycling and walking perspective, the
city's been falling apart for a long time and PIttman more than failed us

19) We ask ho wto get the general orders changed to have explicit language
about respecting the rights of bicyclists and pedestrians.  Hester gives a
vague overview of the many ways things can become part of the General
Orders, in various forms (long-term written or just standing orders issued
verball). "The city manager has final say in any policy decisions".

20) Hester says he did take an oath and will mail it to Jason.  Jason has
not received it as of October 30, 2001.

21) Jason gave Hester abunch of information documenting police bias
against bicyclists, especially in San FRancisco, and shows a copy of the
draft proposal for improving bicycle/pedestrians and police relations in
Berkeley fromthe failed meetings with Pittman.  Hester asks that a copy be
emailed to him (Jason has now done this, and it is pasted below).

22) Sean Potts says the police need sensitivity training like Gay and
Lesbian training the police received.  Hester says, "sure".

23) Here's the proposal which was brought to the BPD, including a related 
resolution from San Francisco:

Reducing automobile trips has been an important goal of Berkeley's General
Plan since its adoption in 1977, and it will continue to be an important
goal in the new, revised General Plan. One way to accomplish this goal is
to encourage bicycling. It is important for Berkeley's police officers to
appreciate the many benefits of bicycling to the entire city. These
benefits can be identified both in terms of the healthful lifestyle
cyclists choose and the reduced automobile congestion in a city where a
significant percentage of the population bicycles on a regular basis and
where even more people are likely to bicycle as the numerous improvements
envisioned in Berkeley's Bicycle Plan, adopted by the City Council in
1999, are implemented. The City of Berkeley is now working actively to
implement the Bicycle Plan, and the city has allocated increased funding
in recent budgets for bicycle-related improvements. Officers can encourage
bicycling by understanding bicyclists' rights; appreciating that bicycles
are an important, helpful, and valid mode of travel; and helping to
educate bicyclists about safe behavior rather than penalizing them for
relatively minor infractions. In short, the Berkeley Police Department is
in a position to play an active and positive role in encouraging bicycling
in Berkeley. At the same time, a lack of understanding of bicyclists'
needs and rights, or outright hostility toward bicyclists on the part of
police officers, can have the opposite effect.
The following policies and principles are suggested as ways to improve
treatment of bicyclists by Berkeley police officers and to encourage safe,
responsible bicycling throughout the city:
 1. Police should strive to be in accordance with the Bicycle Plan by:
    a. Encouraging bicycle use wherever possible;
    b. Training officers to know and respect bicyclists' rights, and to be
       sensitive to the needs and conditions of bicyclists;
 2. Police enforcement should be directed by (1) above in addition to:
    a. Using discretion and/or diversion, such as a bicycle education
       program, rather than fines to deal with bicycle violators;
    b. Supporting the reduction of fines for bicycle infractions;
    c. Reviewing ticketing statistics, identifying officers who are being
       too hard on bicyclists, and encouraging such officers to be more
       lenient with bicyclists;
    d. Enforcing the law based on statistically verified risks to the
       public, such as generally not ticketing cyclists for responsibly
       treating stops as yields; primarily focusing attention on motorist
       behavior that endangers bicyclists, pedestrians, wheelchair users,
       and other nonmotorized vehicles; and at the same time attempting to
       curb irresponsible and dangerous bicycling, such as bikes riding
       recklessly and/or inconsiderately on sidewalks;
     e. At Critical Mass, toning down the police presence (especially the
       unseen presence); allowing cyclists to use all city streets
       including Ashby, University, and Solano; and avoiding mass
       citation/mass arrest scenarios;
     f. Allowing individuals to make a "citizen's arrest" for dangerous
       traffic violations (e.g., motorist violation of right-of-way).
 3. Crash scenes--fairness should be strived for by:
     a. Always allowing a cyclist to make a report even if no major injury
       or major property damage was sustained;
     b. Finding ways to be proactive and changing policy, if necessary, to
       ensure that bicyclists are afforded fair treatment.
     c. In cases where physical harassment with a motor vehicle occurs,
       that such incidents should be recognized and treated legitimately
       as an assault with a deadly weapon.
 Further points of study include:
     a. Investigate what happens at crash scenes (both in terms of policy
       and practice, including anecdotes/case histories);
     b. Find out how many tickets of what type are being issued by whom,
       tracked by travel mode, disability, gender, and race.
The following Resolution from the City and County of San Francisco is
included with our draft to show what they have been discussing there. The
San Francisco Board of Supervisors has just adopted it in January 2000.
WHEREAS, Bicycling is a growing form of transportation in San Francisco;
WHEREAS, Bicycle use is considered beneficial to the City, as the
Transportation Element of the City and County of San Francisco's Master
Plan states:  "Active encouragement of bicycle use as an alternative to
automobile use, whenever possible, is essential in light of the
continually increasing traffic congestion caused by motorized vehicles
which aggravates air pollution, increases noise levels and consumes
valuable urban space;" and,
WHEREAS, Bicyclists and others using non-motorized modes of transportation
are entitled to equal protection under the law; and,
WHEREAS, Both bicyclists and motorists are required to obey traffic
signals, respect rights of way, and operate their vehicles in a safe
manner; and,
WHEREAS, According to the City's Master Plan: "Traffic enforcement should
extend to protection of bicyclists' rights-of-way which are often violated
by motorists;" now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the San Francisco Board of Supervisors urges the San
Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to examine it General Orders and
programs in order to ensure equal treatment of bicyclists and motorists in
upholding the law, and urges the San Francisco District Attorney's Office
to examine its current policies in order to ensure fairness to bicyclists
and motorists in prosecuting criminal cases; and, be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Board of Supervisors urges the SFPD to develop
a bicycle and pedestrian component of its training program for new cadets
and continuing education for officers to ensure their understanding of the
laws pertaining to cyclists and pedestrians; and, be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, That the SFPD and District Attorney track the number of
injuries to bicyclists in traffic incidents as reported to the Department
of Public Health during the next six months, as well as the number of
criminal charges filed as the result of traffic incidents involving
injured bicyclists (including doorings, hit-and-run incidents, and
vehicular assaults) during those same six months, and report back to the
Board of Supervisors on the advancement of the cases; and, be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, That deliberate physical harassment of bicyclists or
pedestrians by motor vehicles be recognized and treated legitimately as
assault with a deadly weapon.

Back to the Bicycle Civil Liberties Union.

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