Friday, June 16, 2006

Education and Enforcement: The Owasso Police Dept.

In writing about bicycling advocacy, three essential elements come up again and again. They are: education, enforcement, and engineering. Some say there’s a fourth element – encouragement – and often that’s something I write about in CycleDog.

But today’s theme is on enforcement and it has a good resolution. What follows are some e-mails sent to Chief Daniel Yancey of the Owasso PD. I had several incidents with the same teenagers and my frustration is readily apparent. The Owasso PD has been supportive and professional toward area cyclists. I fully expect that their officers would treat cyclists fairly. I also expect they wouldn’t hesitate to give me a ticket if I screwed up. That’s professionalism.

This is the first e-mail. Like I said, there’s some apparent frustration.
25MAY2006

Chief Yancey,

Two teenage boys in a white Honda have thrown objects at me while I’ve been riding home from work on my bicycle. It’s happened 3 times, always near 86th and 129th at around 5PM, and I’ve reported it to your department twice. I’ve given the dispatcher a description of the vehicle and its tag number. As yet, nothing has been done.

Does someone have to be on the pavement bleeding before the department takes notice? Catching an object in the spokes can result in loss of control and a fall, something I’d rather avoid in traffic.

In Tulsa, Paul Tay was arrested and charged with a felony for throwing an object at a motor vehicle. In Owasso, two young men were throwing paint balls at cars and pedestrians. Someone noted the tag, and an officer showed up on the owner’s doorstep within a few minutes. As I write this, your officers are looking for some young men who threw eggs at a car. Are cyclists somehow less deserving of police attention?

Chief Yancey, I’ve always relied on the professionalism and integrity of the Owasso PD. I truly have a high regard for you and your officers. I’m asking you to look into this before it escalates. These kids will continue hassling cyclists because they haven’t experienced any consequences for doing so, and their harassment will escalate.

I could find them myself, and if need be, I will. But I would prefer that one of your officers have a talk with the driver.

Chief Yancey wrote back and asked for more detail. I won’t post his message here because I believe it’s rude to post someone else’s e-mail without their permission. I sent the following as a reply. Please note that the tag number has been expunged:

Chief Yancey,

The incidents have all occurred near the intersection of 86th and 129th at about 5PM. The first one was on April 12, and I called the PD at 1721. The second incident occurred a few weeks later, and I didn't report that one. The last one was on Wednesday, May 24. I called the dispatcher at 1712 according to my phone record.

The car is a white Honda, Oklahoma tag XXX_XXX occupied by two white males, possibly juveniles. They were southbound on 129 on two occasions, and turned west onto 86th to throw cups at me. On Wednesday, I was northbound on 129 as they passed going south, and again they threw something.

Chief, I know that this isn't a big issue for the PD. That's only realistic. But these kids haven't met with any consequences for their behavior, and if they see me as a convenient target, you can be sure they'll do the same to other cyclists. I certainly don't want to fall in traffic, and I'm sure other cyclists would prefer to avoid that too.

This morning, 15JUN2006, Lieutenant Driver called to confirm some information with me. I told him I was about 90% certain I’d gotten the tag right. He said it checked back to a Honda with an Owasso address. He said they had a report of a similar car being driven recklessly around a local apartment complex, but no one had the tag number. Lt. Driver planned to contact the parents sometime today or tomorrow.

At lunchtime, he called back. He had a conversation with the young man’s mother, who said she’d confront him. If he denied the incident, he’d have another meeting at the police department.

Now, some might say that law enforcement and education are opposite sides of the same coin, in that they’re both focused on changing an individual’s behavior. The major difference is the means employed in making that change. Education is the carrot. Behavioral change is encouraged as something that improves the individual and it comes from within. Enforcement is the stick. Change results from a fearful regard for the consequences and comes from external sources. Regardless of the method, the goal is the same – to promote a change in behavior.

One of the central ideas of the League Cycling Instructor program is that people learn in different ways. Most (like me) are visual learners. If we read something and write it down, we remember it. Some are ‘hands-on’ learners. My son is a hands-on kind of kid. A small percentage can listen and remember well enough to learn. But that relates mostly to classroom learning. In the real world, some have to learn through encounters with local law enforcement. This is known as the School of Hard Knocks, and I’m sorry to say I’ve been hard-headed enough to have to learn things that way. I accumulated too many speeding tickets on my motorcycle.

Obviously, I’d prefer that we influence driver’s behavior by teaching the basics of cycling in our schools, beginning in elementary grades with kids who ride to school, and even incorporating bicycling education into our driver’s ed classes at the secondary level. The Oklahoma Bicycling Coalition is making some headway on this issue, and I’ll write more about it as details emerge.

Finally, my thanks go out to Owasso Chief of Police Daniel Yancey, Lieutenant Doug Driver, and the officers of the Owasso Police Department. They truly make Owasso a better place for all of us.

4 Comments:

Blogger Paul Tay said...

Bicyclists don't usually git charged with throwing, unless of course they are rollin' Captain Pecker.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Paul Tay said...

Santa Clause is comin'
Santa Clause is coming to town
Santa Clause is comin'
Santa Clause is coming to town
You better watch out, you better not cry.
Better not pout, I'm telling you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town!
Santa Claus is coming to town!
Santa Claus is coming to town!

He's making a list, and checking it twice;
He's gonna find out who's naughty and nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town!
Santa Claus is coming to town!
Santa Claus is coming to town!

He sees you when you're sleeping,
He knows when you're awake,
He knows if you've been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!

Oh! You better watch out, you better not cry.
Better not pout, I'm telling you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town.
Santa Claus is coming to town!
Santa Claus is coming to town!
Santa Claus is comin'
Santa Claus is coming to town!
Santa Claus is comin '
Santa Claus is coming to town!

The kids in girl and boy land would have a jubilee!
they're gonna built a toyland all around the christmas tree

You better watch out, you better not cry.
Better not pout, I'm telling you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town!
Santa Claus is coming to town!
Santa Claus is coming to town!

Santa Claus is comin'
Santa Claus is coming to town!
Santa Claus is come
Santa Claus is come
Santa Claus is come
come comin' to town
Santa Claus is come
Santa Claus is come
Santa Claus is come
come comin' to town
Santa Claus is coming to town.
Santa Claus is coming to town!
Santa Claus is coming to town!
Santa Claus is comin'
Santa Claus is comin'
he's comin' to town

7:24 AM  
Blogger the old bag said...

You kept your head on straight and presented your case well by comparing the incidents to similar ones perpetuated on autombiles.

Thanks!

...I just don't get the Santa Claus repreive....

5:17 PM  
Blogger Paul Tay said...

I don't really appreciate being used in the manner you suggested. I refuse to be the poster boy for ANYTHING. But, hey, it's Ed's right to use whatever is in the public domain.

12:25 PM  

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