Friday, June 11, 2010

Norfolk Cop: "Don't give me SH*T!!!"

“Don't come over here and give me SHIT for riding on the sidewalk!”

So said Officer Rogers of the Norfolk Police Department, standing astride his bicycle on the sidewalk of Plume Street in downtown Norfolk during the opening hours of Harborfest 2010.

I was riding my bike home on Plume Street (with traffic, in the street), a little after six o'clock, when I saw Officer Rogers and Officer “Blank” riding the opposite direction on the sidewalk (the nametag was missing from the velcro strip on Officer Blank's uniform).

I looked behind me and made a u-turn on my bike as Officers Rogers & Blank stopped on their bikes, too. I pulled up in a driveway to a construction site, and asked Officer Blank as he started to ride around me,

“What in the performance of your duties requires you to ride on the sidewalk right now?”


“Why do you feel the need to ride on the sidewalk right now?”

“Because I can ride on the sidewalk.”

“I understand that you're legally allowed to ride on the sidewalk, just as you have the legal authority to drive through a red light when you are in your cruiser. But you don't drive through red lights unless required. So what part of your duties right now requires you to ride on the sidewalk?”

“Well, I'm patrolling.”

At this point, Officer Rogers rode over on his bike, looking rather agitated. Officer Blank looked like he had been hitting the donuts: a chunky guy, over 35% body fat. Officer Rogers was shorter and leaner: the bantam weight boxer to Officer Blank's linebacker. Officer Rogers joined in the conversation,

“Let me ask you something: what do you do for a living?”

“I'm a photographer,” I replied,

“Do I come around and give you SHIT while you're taking pictures of flowers? NO! So don't come come over here and give me SHIT for riding my bike on the sidewalk!”

“I'm not asking you not to ride on the sidewalk, I'm asking you what in the performance of your duties compels you to ride on the sidewalk. See, you're setting a bad example: there are thousands of people downtown for Harborfest. You're riding on the sidewalk. People see cops riding on the sidewalk, and they think it's OK. In fact it's illegal in Norfolk, and it's four hundred percent more dangerous than riding in the street, with traffic!”

At this point, Officer Blank chimed in, “Well we're cops because we like danger: maybe that's why we ride on the sidewalk.”

Officer Rogers went back on the attack, “Have you ever taken a PHOTOGRAPH of a dead police officer?”

“Actually, yes, I have,” I replied, stretching the truth only slightly: from firsthand, forensic photography I know the punchline to the joke, “What do you call a guy floating in the ocean with no arms and no legs?” Answer: “A naval aviator.” (I spent some time photographing in the morgue of the Portsmouth Navy Hospital, and Navy pilots are the cops of the ocean skies.)

“Don't you have anything better to do?” Officer Rogers continued,

“I think it's quite important for our police to model good, law-abiding behavior: you don't run red lights just because you can. You run them when you need to. You shouldn't ride on the sidewalk, just because you can.”

“And you rode your bike over here ON THE SIDEWALK to tell us that?”

“Actually, officer, I'm not on the sidewalk,” I observed, looking down at the curb cut and parking lot driveway where I was standing, astride my bike.”

Officer Rogers was furiously quiet for a few moments as he realized that I was, indeed, in compliance with the Norfolk city code. Then he gathered himself up and presented the best justification yet,

“We are patrolling the downtown area and keeping citizens safe. For that reason, we are riding on the sidewalk.”

I think Officer Rogers knew that it was a lame excuse, but strong enough to stand up, should his Sergeant inquire. And I look forward to hearing from the Norfolk Police Department as to their guidelines for officers exercising their legal permission under Section 23-398 of the Norfolk Municipal Code to operate bicycle on the sidewalk:

“Because I can,” is not a sufficient reason.


Nice Neighbor #1 said...

Whereas I agree with everything you've posted...please don't get yourself arrested! :)

Nice Neighbor #1 said...

Hmmmm...I thought my account had my actual name attached to it. Either way, you know me...fraternally.

Russ said...

Wow!! It doesn't surprise me. If anything, it might provoke Norfolk's finest to actually know the rules they are enforcing. Thanks for being a biking advocate!!

Bill C said...

I get a feeling that bicycle cops are probably pretty good advocates for cycling in general - certainly they volunteer for that duty because they like riding; not sure what the point was of antagonizing them... I guess the old adage about never argue with an idiot - people watching won't be able to tell the difference. I do believe you do some good things for cycling but pissing off bike cops just for fun... I'd pick another battle.

FotoByWes said...

@bill: Nah, it's not about pissing off the cops, or having fun doing so, it's about prodding the cops to be more cognizant of the example they set for the public. If we're going to see cycling become the norm, we need our public servants to set a public example.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you spend your time and energy doing something productive for society instead of pissing off the people you will call first when your house is being broken into or your girlfriends getting assaulted.

Anonymous said...

I would think it would be rather wise for you to spend your time to support you local police officers. They are the ones in your community who put their lives on the line to protect you, your family, and your community. The police are the thin blue line that protects us from those who would take the law into their own hands. They stand up for us every day and every night, and now you want to waste time and energy attacking them for riding on the sidewalk? It appears as if you have nothing else to do but instigate a peaceful situation. Well I will stand up for the police when they are under attack over BS like this.... and when the day comes that you need them maybe you will think twice about this incident with these two brave men who spend their time protecting your worthless life!!!

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that you have so much time on your hands and so little to worry about, that you could turn your bike around to talk to those police officers who were on duty. While you kept them talking about your foolish complaint, I was down the street being mugged. No the police weren't there because you had stopped them.Thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

Looking through your web site, I noticed this isn't your first encounter with the Norfolk Police Bike Unit. Seems like you have a little vendetta against the bike patrol.You admitted to stretching the truth a little when taking to the officers, perhaps you are stretching the truth a little in your blog also. You should check into the good things these officers do on a daily basis. You would find that they spend many hours protecting you and your home. Stop wasting their time and keeping them from doing their work.

Anonymous said...

I want my police officers to ride wherever they want. You are a loser....duh. Why don't you go harass losers like yourself. In fact, why don't you go put your lame life on the line for more losers like you.Have a nice loser day on your loser bike.