16 December 2008

Officer Is Indicted in Toppling of Cyclist

David forwarded this article from the New York Times this morning which is related to a previous post. And just by chance we spoke about the incident at Juliane's and david's Dinner at Davis on Sunday night.

December 15, 2008, 4:35 pm

Christopher Long Christopher Long, a cyclist, took part in a Critical Mass ride over the summer. (Photo: John Marshall Mantel for The New York Times)
Updated, 6:30 p.m. | A police officer who was caught knocking a man off his bicycle in Times Square over the summer in a video that was distributed widely on YouTube has been indicted by a grand jury, according to lawyers involved in the case.
The officer, Patrick Pogan, has been instructed to report to State Supreme Court in Manhattan for the unsealing of the indictment, his lawyer, Stuart London, said.
David Rankin, a lawyer for the bicyclist, Christopher Long, said the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, informed him around 3 p.m. that a grand jury had voted to indict Officer Pogan. Mr. London and Mr. Rankin both said they did not know the specific charges, and Mr. Morgenthau’s office declined to comment.
It is believed that prosecutors were seeking felony charges of filing false records in connection with the police report that Officer Pogan filed after arresting Mr. Long. Officer Pogan, who was stripped of his gun and badge in July after the video emerged, also could be charged with a misdemeanor count of assault.
“My client denies any wrongdoing in this matter,” Mr. London said in an interview Monday afternoon. “I would have people withhold judgment until all the evidence comes out about the bicyclist’s actions prior to my client taking action.”
Mr. Long was taking part in a monthly ride, called Critical Mass, that often draws hundreds of riders. In a criminal complaint against Mr. Long, Officer Pogan said that the cyclist rode straight into him. But the video, which was shot by a tourist and posted on YouTube and on the blog Gothamist.com, showed Officer Pogan lunging toward Mr. Long.
Officer Pogan arrested Mr. Long on charges of attempted assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, but the charges against Mr. Long were dropped in September.
The monthly rides have been a source of tension for the police since shortly before the Republican National Convention in 2004, when a large number of officers arrested more than 250 riders on charges that included parading without a permit.


David L. said...

I still maintain that the cyclist bears most of the blame for the original incident -- he went too fast too close in front of a pedestrian who was moving (and who happened to be a police officer). The officer did not do what most of us would do -- jump back in shock and surprise. Instead, he lowered his shoulder and made sure that the cyclist went flying rather than him. ... where he went wrong was in filing the false police report and arresting the cyclist, instead of just helping him up and writing it off as an unfortunate minor accident.

Manfred von Holstein said...

It isn't for Manfred to lecture an American lawyer on a legal dispute in the US, but doesn't intent matter at all? Looking at the video, it seems the policeman displayed a clear intent to look for trouble with a rider, picked one, deliberately walked into his way and when the cyclist was about to avoid him, used his arms to shove him off the bike. Wouldn't US law be generous enough to recognize that there was only one person to blame?

David L. said...


I was not speaking as a lawyer, just as a cyclist who prefers to preserve peace with pedestrians and cars, especially pedestrians. I would need clearance from my law firm before I start giving legal advice on the blog.

A good rule -- never pass within 2 meters in FRONT of a pedestrian who is crossing a street, always go behind them so they do not feel threatened by the potential collision.

Another good rule (broken only when traveling with the Positivo Espresso "train" past Okutama-ko police tent during traffic safety week) -- never break traffic rules when a policeman is staring at you, since it can be perceived as a direct challenge to authority.

Yes, in the video the cop appears to accelerate at the last minute and lower his shoulder, but it is hard to tell whether he was doing so to intentionally cause a collision, or to make sure that if there were a collision, he was not the one to go flying. Also, Mr. Long, the cyclist who got hit, seems to be going faster than the others, including those who passed on the other side of the street wisely avoiding the policemen. And until he gets within 2-3 meters of the policeman, he is heading on a trajectory straight for the cop, and is too close when he starts to try and go around to the left -- the same direction the cop is walking. If you watch closely you will notice that he ALSO lowers his shoulder into the policeman (to minimize the damage to himself) at the last second when he realizes that there is going to be a collision ... but alas, this one of the very rare cases where light weight happens to be a disadvantage on a bicycle.