Getting harassed by cops on the scooter

It's eleven-thirty and we're out on the scooter*, me and my friend Kit, going about 25 on Rio Grande, going under the freeway, headed home and to bed. It's one of those gorgeous early summer nights where it's not quite warm out but it's not chilly enough to wear gloves on the bike; the moon's thin but big, low in the sky. There are few enough people out that we're not getting harassed by cars. Kit's keeping me warm, hugging me around my BoingBoing hoodie, and we're laughing, amused with ourselves and the night and comic books and life, not really wanting to go home, but it's getting late and I have work the next day and he's got papers to write, so we're headed back.

It's a little weird when the motorcyclist pulls up beside us, but a lot of motorcycles come up next to me at lights and talk to me, and I'm one of those people who rarely expects confrontations, especially on a night like this.

And then he talks. "Why're you so wobbly?" It's a cop, I realize, with a car behind him, and I laugh.

"He keeps moving!" I say, grinning, and it's true, he keeps moving from leaning over my right shoulder to my left and back again. Then I see his expression. "D'you want me to pull over?"

He does, and I do, pulling into the bike lane (which I was not riding in when this happened). I ask Kit to get me ID-- my girly pinstripe pants** don't have pockets big enough to hold more than chapstick***, so he keeps my stuff for me so he can put his hands in my hoodie pockets to keep them warm.

He asks for my ID and I fish it out of my wallet and hand it to him. He tells me that I'm not riding the bike like a scooter, that I need registration and insurance to be going on the streets over 30. I tell him I wasn't going 30 and he switches modes, telling me that I was obstructing traffic. I'm not exactly sure how I'm obstructing traffic-- Rio Grande was 2 lanes at this point and there were hardly any cars out and about-- but I tell him I'll take side roads on the way back if he wants. The general message we're getting by this point is to either get in a car or get off the road which, while somewhat contradictory with the city's official message, is pretty much par for the course of what I get from most thugs in bigger vehicles than me. He gets a little confused when I tell him that we're headed from Campbell Road back to the University area. (He also asked whose bike it was. Apparently guys riding bitch confuses cops.)

"Can I go?" I ask, and he says that I can. Kit waves and shouts a cheerful goodbye-- a total contrast with my own suddenly foul mood-- at the officer and we get onto Central.

I'm ranting about The Man by this point, feeling marginalized. I just read Little Brother and so I'm already a little freaked out about living in an increasing complacent police state. Needless to say, I'm pissed. So of course up next to me and tells me that "this doesn't look like a sidestreet".

And then he tells me that if he sees me again he'll tow the bike. I turn right (as he told me to) on the first street I can and end up sort of lost in the neighborhood with all the numbered streets south of Central in the limbo between Old Town and Downtown. I have an "oh shit" moment when I realize that I didn't get his badge number and we take Zuni back home.

My apartment was robbed a couple of months ago and while the cops were nice enough then, they didn't get me my stuff back. I wish I wasn't afraid of the people who were supposed to be protecting me. I'm going to head back to my apartment now. I think I'll take Central anyway.

*whose name is Remus
**which are totally awesome
***my biggest vice

Views: 169

Comment by misterhinkydink on May 9, 2008 at 5:27am
He must have had low blood sugar. Next time, hand him a donut with your license and say, "There's plenty more where that came from".
Comment by JFoote on May 9, 2008 at 8:02am
Nora, looks like you've been unwittingly included in a long ABQ tradition of motorcycle cops harassing scooteristas. Congrats and welcome.Ahhh the thin blue line.. (NSFW)
Comment by M&M on May 9, 2008 at 8:26am
Here's something I learned when a friend of mine was pulled over, was accused of driving under the influence by a cop, and taken to a police substation in the middle of nowhere at 2:00 in the morning on a cold, cold December night (while his truck was towed and I had to walk a mile home in the sub-freezing weather). After my friend passed the breathalyzer test twice, with the cop threatening him with arrest simply because he couldn't believe that my friend was sober, the cop simply turned him out on the street with the words "Good luck finding a way home." My friend had to find a way home in the cold from Louisiana and Gibson, on a dark night and where people were shooting guns in the air (I think it was New Years Eve).

At my urging, my friend wrote a letter to his city councilperson. This happened just before the cops got some media attention for leaving someone else out in the cold when his friend was pulled over and arrested for previous moving violations. My friend had gotten the name of the copy when he went to retrieve his truck from impound. But his letter to councilperson Isaac Benton got no response.

Not long after he was relating his experience to a former police chief, who told him to call 311 and tell his story to the person who answered. So my friend did. Within a day, he got a call back from the cop's sergeant, who was very interested in his story. She related that the cop was on probation, and that she was definitely going to address this incident with him. She stated that she had seen the report and thought that there was something strange about it. She was particularly interested in the statements that the cop made where it seemed he was abusing his power and apologized for his treatment, saying that he should not have been treated that way and should have been offered some help in getting home. She also told my friend to call a number so that he could get his money back from the impound lot, and gave him her cell number so that if he had any trouble getting his money back he could call her directly.

Moral of story: even though it's hard sometimes in the situation, get a badge number or a name and call the city's 311 number if you ever feel like you have been harassed by an officer. You should not be treated that way, regardless of whether a cop is having a "bad day" or is just a power hungry jerk, and this is one way that they may be held accountable.
Comment by John Fleck on May 9, 2008 at 8:28am
Obstructing traffic? Nora *is* traffic.
Comment by Tricross on May 9, 2008 at 9:00am
If you call that harassment, you've never been harassed. New Mexico's inability to specifically deal with mopeds, scooters and motorized bikes has been a problem for years. All they have to do is look at the Florida vehicle code and adopt it and things would be much better.

Lastly. Bummer you had your stuff jacked but don't blame the police for it.
Comment by Khan on May 9, 2008 at 9:27am
You know, the ONLY time I've ever been physically roughed up for being a queer, years and years ago, when I reported it to the cops, including the identity of the person who roughed me up, I was told that homos need to keep to themselves and shouldn't be going certain places. That was the entirety of the police response. "You're not like us. Don't come here." I think that mentality extends to all manner of persons and situations. Skinheads, punx, queers, various ethnic groups, and people who drive a scoot instead of a Tundra.

That experience as a teenager, though, taught me that no one looks out for me but me & mine. And like I said...The only time!

Comment by buggs on May 9, 2008 at 9:41am
"Getting harassed by 'cops' on the scooter". Mmmmmh, I read the post and noticed it involved a single cop. That lost some credibility in my mind right of the bat.

Anyhhow, I am glad you made it home safely. I sometimes ride my motorcycle on the city streets and the crazy traffic can be a challange, I imagine it might be double difficult for a slow moving small scooter at night.
Comment by Sí Serrano on May 9, 2008 at 9:47am
He tells me that I'm not riding the bike like a scooter, that I need registration and insurance to be going on the streets over 30.

I'm a little ignorant on the scooter laws. You don't need registration or insurance as long as you don't go over 30 mph? And does someone know where to find the scooter laws?
Comment by Chris on May 9, 2008 at 9:55am
I understand how frusterating a situation like this can be ( I was pulled over 5 times in a month just because I drove a white cadillac that looked suspicious to cops). However, I have many, many freinds and acquaintances who are cops in Albuquerque and surrounding areas. During any traffic stop whether it seems silly or not to the driver, they need to be a little jagged edged. A very low percentage of the people pulled over tell the complete truth. If you heard of a story about someone who was recognized as "wobbly" and turned out to be intoxicated, you would have a much different view. The cop who pulled you over has probably seen alot of seemingly silly situations that turn out to be alot worse incidents. I'm sorry you had a bad encounter, and there alot of ways to follow up if you truly feel insulted. But give the cop a break to, he has a job that is alot tougher and more dangerous than most, and you got out of this situation with nothing but a little frusteration. It probably wasn't the best part of your night, but just think the fifteen minutes that cop spent pissing you off, he may have spent the next 3 hours on a call that kept you alot safer. Sorry about the bad experience, but put yourself in his shoes, the walk is alot different.
Comment by misterhinkydink on May 9, 2008 at 9:55am
They're in the NM motor vehicle code.


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