Members of a civic group that oversees the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have called on the county’s independent surveillance service to investigate cyclist stops after a Times investigation found MPs searched the vast majority of motorcyclists they stop and disproportionately stop Hispanics.
The Times analyzed over 44,000 bike stops recorded by the sheriff’s department since 2017 and found that lawmakers search 85% of the motorcyclists they stop on, and that 7 out of every 10 stops are linked to Hispanic cyclists. Riders from poorer communities with large non-white populations are stopped and searched much more often than those who live in richer and whiter parts of the county.
The analysis showed that the deputies found illegal items in 8% of searches. Weapons were seized 164 times – less than half of all searches.
Priscilla Osen, chair of the Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission, said the department’s inspector general, Max Huntsman, should consider “racial differences in traffic stops, including bike stops,” and that the commission should consider limiting the agency’s role in road traffic compliance.
“In terms of what it brings, it doesn’t provide any real safety benefit,” Osen said, referring to MPs’ low success rates in finding drugs or other contraband when searching cyclists.
Sheriff’s officials defend the use of bike stops as a legitimate crime-fighting tool, arguing that criminals use bicycles to evade detection.
Cycling allows criminals to “move around unnoticed, faster and safer than walking, and helps avoid contact with the police. We do not stop the movement of people who clearly use a bicycle for exercise or entertainment, ”said Lorena Rodriguez, spokeswoman for the department, in September.
The Sheriff’s Department is not required to follow the advice of the commission, which has an advisory role.
Lael Rubin, who is also a member of the commission, said the practice of MPs regularly escalating minor violations of bicycle rules into more serious collisions, when they ransack people’s belongings and often detain them in the backseat of a patrol car, could violate cyclists’ civil rights. …
“This is not a constitutional job,” she said.
It is unclear what the Hunter will do, if anything at all, to explore the bike stops. The commission could commission him to conduct an audit or something less formal.
The Times’ findings were similar to those faced by the Inland Highway Compliance Group, which stopped motorists on Highway 5 in search of drugs, Huntsman said. suspended in 2018 after a Times investigation found Hispanics were disproportionately under attack.
“One of the problems with low success rates is that the lower the percentage of successful criminals, the higher the percentage of people who were not criminals,” Huntsman said. “When that percentage gets really high … what you do is perceived by the community as harassment.”
Two Los Angeles County Chiefs, Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis, said the board of directors should review local law in unincorporated areas of the county that prohibits cycling on sidewalks – a violation that the Sheriff said was the reason for 8% of bike stops. … to the analysis of the Times.
“If MPs use this minor offense of driving on the sidewalk as an excuse to search innocent people, it is wrong,” Khan said in a statement. “The law against driving on sidewalks was designed to protect pedestrians, but if it is applied in this way, I think we should consider changing it.”
Cyclists told The Times that they ride on the sidewalk because it is safer than fighting cars on busy roads without cycle lanes.
The Times found that MPs were more likely to stop people for driving on the sidewalk in areas with few bike lanes. For example, in East Los Angeles, where only 1% of streets have cycle paths, nearly a quarter of bike stops were associated with sidewalk violations, one of the highest rates in a sheriff’s jurisdiction. And in Lynwood, where there are no cycle paths at all, they account for 16% of stops.
In contrast, white-dominated West Hollywood has a higher percentage of streets with bike lanes. The city’s code allows bikers to ride on sidewalks in areas where there are no bike lanes and less than 1% of bike stops there were caused by sidewalk violations.
Polls by the nonprofit Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition found that riders are twice as likely to ride sidewalk streets without cycle lanes as those who ride with them.
Michael Schneider, founder of the transport group Streets For All, said the average rider doesn’t know when he moves from a city where sidewalk riding is allowed to an unincorporated county.
For example, it is legal in the city of Los Angeles as long as the rider does not exhibit “willful and habitual disregard” for safety.
“This discrepancy is really problematic,” he said.
Schneider said his group is pushing for the Supervisory Board to legalize sidewalk driving.
Solis said the Vision Zero Plan, an initiative to eliminate road traffic deaths, also proposes changes.
“This proposal is a low-hanging fruit from which to begin addressing the injustices highlighted in the Los Angeles Times analysis,” Solis said. “Riding your bike to work, business or school shouldn’t be a crime. Instead, residents should be allowed to use their bike without fear of profiling. ”
Kevin Sheen, deputy director of the Cycling Coalition, supports such an effort, but called it a “patch”, saying the county should invest in making streets safer for cyclists.
“Unless we are really making a serious effort to drive real infrastructure changes, driving on the sidewalk will not solve the problem,” he said.
He said that increasing the number of bike lanes in underserved communities is part of the group’s long-term goals.
Observer Holly Mitchell said reports of Hispanics being disproportionately stopped is “unacceptable.”
“No resident should be discriminated against on the basis of place of residence or skin color. Creating safer options, including bike paths for cyclists, should be part of road safety, ”Mitchell said.