Terrorized & Ticketed for 'No headlight on bicycle'

August 10, 2002
LT. Steve Johnson
Fulton-El Camino Parks & Recreation
2201 Cottage Way
Sacramento, CA 95825

Tonight I was molested in the neighborhood park I have been visiting for over 25 years.

I had taken my classic Montgomery Ward 3 speed bicycle for a spin in the park and was about halfway through my ride when I noticed a car with high beams on coming right at me, I swerved off the pavement and the car pursued me. Now quite frightened, I pulled up to a stop as the driver turned on the blue & red lights’, indicating it was a police car.

The door opened and the officer asked me where I was going – I replied that I was on my way home and that I lived very near the park. He than asked me if I had ever been arrested to which I replied “Yes, many, many years ago” and then he asked for what and I told him it was for DUI, but it been well over ten years ago and I had not been arrested since. He then asked me for my identification, I said sure and as I got it out of my wallet I asked what I was being detained for.

This is when the officer became belligerent and rude. He said he had stopped me because I did not have a light on the front of my bicycle. He then instructed me to stand in front of his car while he checked out my ID. This is when I asked him if he had probable cause to detain me, which angered him further and he yelled at me something to the effect of “I know my job, don’t tell me how to do my job”.

Again I was frightened at his threatening tone and I moved to the front of his car. After about 5 minutes, I leaned toward the car and spoke to the officer saying: “If I am not under arrest, I would like to go home now.” He replied that I was disobeying his orders and told me to move away from the car. I was perhaps 10 feet away from the front of the car at this time.

I repeated my request, and at this point the other occupant of the car, a scruffy scary looking guy, jumped out of the car and quickly came very near me stating something like “You are not running the show here, you do what you are told”.

At this point, I was not only very frightened, but I also began to get very angry about this whole scene. I was being treated like a suspect in a rape or bank robbery, for riding my bicycle without a headlight! Again I spoke to the officer saying, “If I am not under arrest, I would like to go now, and why is this man standing next to me with this threatening posture?” which served to further anger the both of them.

The officer standing next to me then said I better shut up or he would handcuff me and I could wait in the back seat while they did the paperwork. His tone was very angry and threatening, and he used his very close physical proximity in what seemed an enticement to violence. I don’t know how else to describe it when someone comes very close to you and yells commands at you, such as “Shut Up!” or whatever.

Realizing that I was outnumbered, and that they had guns and handcuffs, I decided my civil rights were not worth getting beat up over at that moment, and that I could tell my side of the story later, I asked the officers to be sure and write both of their names on the citation. At about this same time you, Lt. Steve Johnson, arrived in your car, and the second officer moved away from me and returned to his seat in the car.

By now I was extremely agitated about all of this and stated that I would be filing a written complaint with the officers supervisor concerning the way they had conducted themselves. You then identified yourself as their supervisor, which explains why they backed off when you arrived on the scene, and invited me to lodge my complaint with you on the spot. I responded that I was too angry at that moment and that I would file a written complaint but just wanted to go home right then. I asked you for a business card so that I would have the address. You stated you were out of cards, but had some in your office if I wanted to wait.

At this point, I had no desire to stick around with these guys while you left, so I said no, I would find the address in the phonebook. You then offered to write the information on a piece of paper, and I accepted that, and promised you I would send this letter.

Finally the original officer got out of his car with his citation book and invited me to approach – not being sure I heard him correctly, and a bit traumatized from the events so far, I asked him if he wanted me to come closer to the car. I offer this to you as proof of my state of mind at this point, because by this time you were there also, and surely heard me say that to him. I was then instructed to walk my bicycle home, or I would be put through this whole ordeal again. I did exactly as I was told and this is my statement of the events that transpired the evening of August 10, 2002 in Howe Park, 2201 Cottage Way.

My complaint is that I feel I was harassed and detained without good cause, excessive force was used in the detention, and I was punished for requesting that the officers respect my civil rights.

The remedy to this for me will be a written, public, admission of wrong, and apology, combined with dismissal of these two officers from their positions. We cannot have thugs dressed up in police uniforms pretending to be protectors of the peace.

What ever happened to “Protect and Serve” anyway? I have a couple of questions I would like the officers to answer:

1) When you pointed your car at me, and accelerated as I was steering towards the field, were you prepared to drive out on the grass to pursue me on my bicycle?

2) After you stopped me, and informed me of the headlight violation, why did you decide to question me further? Be specific – what was it about me, my appearance, or actions that made you suspicious? (I want this answer in writing.)

3) How far was the aggressive one prepared to go to entice me into violence?

4) Finally, what makes you think you have the right to bully folks around? You need to understand that you frightened and intimidated me, when all you really needed to do was educate me about the alleged deficiency on my bicycle. You may have noticed, it is a collectable Montgomery Wards brand and is in all original condition, which means it was made long before laws were written requiring electric lights, the statute you are claiming as your justification for molesting me in the park last night.

You cited me for violation of CVC 21201(d), specifically “No headlamp on bicycle”.

The statute I was cited under pertains to vehicles operated on a roadway or highway. My bicycle is NOT a vehicle. According to Department of Motor Vehicles, California Vehicle Code Division 1- Words and Phrases Defined:
A “vehicle” is a device by which any person or property may be propelled, moved, or drawn upon a highway, excepting a device moved exclusively by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.
Amended Ch. 987, Stats. 1975. Effective January 1, 1976

Further, the bicycle is in fact equipped with white and red reflectors, and conforms to every code or statute that applies to bicycles.

In closing, I just want to offer that I have true gratitude for the efforts of the law enforcement community. A culture without laws would be barbaric and primitive. However, it is important that people entrusted with the power to arrest and detain do not abuse that power. When the police are allowed to bully citizens, we have the makings of a police state. I was molested in the park last night by two Park Rangers driving a fully equipped police car and wearing what appeared to be police uniforms. I had no choice but to obey them. It was that or physical injury and further confinement. All I did was go for a spin in the park! I know for sure I should be able to do that without fear of being molested, isn’t that what the Park Rangers are paid to do? Now I am afraid to go to my own neighborhood park! Not because of the criminals that may be there, but because of the Park Rangers that may decide to give me a hard time for no real good reason. I could end up arrested just for taking a walk in the park, according to these guys.

Tim Castleman