Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Office of Police Complaints Reports on MPD's Interactions with Bicyclists

Thursday, September 29, 2011, the District's Office of Police Complaints (OPC) and the Police Complaints Board issued a report entitled "Improving the Safety of Bicyclists and Enhancing Their Interaction with Metropolitan Police Department Officers".  The report offers several recommendations on how to improve the relationship between the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and bicyclists as well as recommending a stronger and more communicative DC Bicycle Advisory Council. A copy of the OPC report appears at the end of this post (courtesy of the  Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA)).

The 11-page report is the product of a February hearing before the Council of the District of Columbia's Committee on the Judiciary.  It discusses complaints from that hearing including 1) how MPD officers interpret the laws related to bicycling in the city, 2) how MPD officers ineffectively investigate crashes between motor vehicles and bicyclists, and; 3) the impression that MPD officers, according the the OPC report, "have a pro-motorist bias due to the perception that some bicyclists recklessly endanger themselves and the lives of others by openly flouting traffic laws".

A second hearing on Enforcement of Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety will occur November 2, 2011 and will likely have a discussion regarding the OPC report.

The report made the following recommendations:
  1. MPD should change the method of investigating bicycle-motor vehicle crashes in order to provide appropriate safeguards for bicyclists who are injured.  This would include chaining the policy that requires MPD officers to complete crash reports before the end of their shifts and instead, leave reports as pending until all necessary statements are obtained. 

    Additionally, the crash report form (PD Form 10) should add a category for bicyclists in its 'type of crash' field and add a 'riding into the road' category in its primary contributing circumstance field.

  2. MPD should better train officers on the applicable bicycling laws in order to prevent and dispel claims that officers are neglecting to enforce traffic laws directly affecting bicyclists and incorrectly citing them for behaviors that are legal.

  3. MPD should continue to work with advocacy groups like the Washington Area Bicyclist Association to provide input into the officer training curriculum as well as provide more funding to cover costs associated with the printing of WABA's Pocket Guide to DC Bike Laws.

  4. Lastly, the report recommends that MPD should work more closely with the DC Bicycle Advisory Council and the BAC should be strengthened.  In addition, a task force which would include BAC, DDOT, MPD and WABA that would educate MPD officers and bicyclists and promote awareness and understanding between the two groups.
As always, we would appreciate your comments on this issue.  You may leave them here below or you may attend DCBAC's upcoming Safety, Education, and Enforcement committee meeting this Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 6:30 at Teaism, 400 8th Street NW where we will discuss this and other issues.

Police Complaint Board MPD-Bicyclist Report & Recs