Last night, I got to watch police work up close and personal. That’s right; someone was actually handcuffed right in front of my house! Three patrol cars! Five police officers! Imagine my excitement! And the miscreant who was being handcuffed? His crime?
Not having a headlight on his bike.
Perhaps I should start over.
Late last night (starting around midnight and ending around 12:30 a.m.), police from the Bradley University Police Department detained a man in front of our house. I’m using “detained”, because he was obviously not free to leave. The police officers around him made that quite clear, especially since they had handcuffed him. So, “detained” seems like a fair word to use. I personally witnessed from the point where one of the officers put the man in cuffs, forcing him onto the trunk of the patrol car and then laying him in the road. Based on what the man was yelling, this wasn’t particularly gentle treatment, which scratched his face on the road surface. Orange Street was tarred-and-chipped back in the summer, so it’s a rough surface with plenty of loose gravel lying around.
We were able to hear most of the conversation between the various officers and the man in cuffs. As a result, we heard most of the story, which didn’t seem to disputed. The man was riding on his bike when the officers came along and told him to “slow up”. So, the man pulled to the side of the road and slowed down his speed. The officers were unhappy because the man didn’t stop. So, eventually, he did stop, and the officers told him that he was being ticketed for not having a headlight on his bike. He was then told to produce identification. He said that he didn’t have identification on him, so he couldn’t produce any. This apparently wasn’t satisfactory to the officers who claimed they needed some sort of identification in order to write the ticket. I’m not sure how this ended up with the man being handcuffed. I’m going to guess that he was arguing with the officers, but I didn’t actually witness that. I did hear the man yelling and saw the officer cuffing him.
After the man was cuffed, several other officers arrived on the scene. The man was questioned by one of the new arrivals. Why didn’t he stop when told to stop? Why hadn’t he produced identification when asked? The man reiterated that he had been trying to be cooperative but that he had misunderstood the original instruction and that he had no identification to produce. He was just on his way to his girlfriend’s house. At this point, one of the original officers started yelling at him, accusing him of lying about how he had spoken to them. “You didn’t say ‘sir’!” was the quote, as I recall.
While this was going on, another officer searched the bag the man was carrying. No drugs or alcohol were found.
Several of the officers consulted together and apparently figured out that they could write the ticket without identification. All they needed was a telephone number where he could be reached. No, his cell phone wasn’t good enough. So, the officers demanded that the man give them his number and his girlfriend’s name, number, and address. He refused to identify his girlfriend or give her contact information. Eventually, they came to some compromise and required that the man sign the ticket. He agreed, so they uncuffed him so he could sign the ticket. He signed it and took his copy. He kissed the ticket to prove that he was being cooperative, took his bag, walked over to where his bike had been left in the middle of the street, picked up his hat from off the street, and walked off, pushing the bike.
The police talked a little and then dispersed.
So, here are my questions, in no particular order:
1) Orange Street isn’t on Bradley University’s campus, nor is there off-campus housing located on Orange Street (that I know of). How does the Bradley University Police Department have jurisdiction in front of my house?
2) Was this situation really resolved in a professional way by the Bradley University Police Department? Couldn’t they have prevented this from escalating? Better yet, was this really the best problem to focus on at this time?
3) Am I really required by law to carry identification on me at all times? Do I need a license to ride a bike?
So, after last night’s display, I just want to say that I feel much safer in my home than before. It’s good to know that the police are out there, protecting me from dangerous black men riding around on improperly illuminated bikes. Hopefully, as a follow-up, they’ll start fining people for having lawns that are too long. It’s not like there are more important things to be doing.
Note: we shot video. It’s fairly unclear, but you can get some decent audio. When it’s available, I’ll link to it here.
UPDATE: A clarification: as I talked to Crystal about this, she mentioned that two of the cops who showed up later on the scene were Peoria police officers. Upon reflection this makes sense, as they generally seemed more professional than the Bradley officers.