Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Great Confiscation Miscommunication

On Thursday, September 22, NBC4 posted a report by Jackie Benson regarding an increase in thefts involving culprits on bicycles.  According to the report, an email issued by the 3rd District Commander, Jacob Kishter, stated police would increase enforcement in robbery areas, including in introduction of stopping bicyclist to see if they are stolen or were used in the commission of a crime.

However, the story focused on the following:
"If the rider cannot prove ownership, take the bike for safekeeping until they can prove ownership."

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That statement, of course, set the blogesphere and Twitterverse ablaze. Shani Hilton of the Washington City Paper who was concerned that this policy would not only be impractical but probably racist.  Even DCBAC picket up on the story while it was still influx and tweeted:
"Okay, so #MPD are stopping bicyclists and confiscating bikes but aren't profiling! Not Good.… @wcp"
Rather quickly, twitterers @girlonabikedc and @smwieland helped clear up the confusion.  The Washington Area Bicyclist Association's Executive Director, Shane Farthing, as reported by the Washington Post's Mike DeBonis and the WashCycle, we later learned that communication with the commander that, no, the order did not apply to everyone who looks "suspicious on a bike" in Columbia Heights, but on "...known violent offenders who are committing these cases (on bikes)".

While DCBAC was initially very concerned about the NBC story but have since been properly informed (we were about to write a slew of letters to MPD and the DC Council), we would still like to hear how District police officers have interacted with riders in Columbia Heights.  While the focus appears to be on "known violent offenders", we'd like to learn if the police are targeting bicyclists - even for a "good reason". 

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