Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Phoenix Police Hassling Cyclists in Biltmore in Phoenix

A group or residents of the Biltmore have hired off-duty Phoenix police officers to patrol their neighborhood, ostensibly in response to a rash of burglaries. However, the police officers (or at least one of them) have also been stopping cyclists, joggers, and walkers and telling them that they do not have the right to enter the Biltmore. That information appears to be a blatant lie and not condoned by the Phoenix Police Department

It is true that the streets inside the Biltmore are private. To the best of my knowledge, the largest section of street, from the entrance at 24th Street to the Biltmore Hotel, is owned by the hotel. Other sections are the property of various home owners’ associations. However, just because a street is private does not necessarily mean that non-residents are forbidden to use them. If they wanted, perhaps the Biltmore residents could persuade the City of Phoenix to ban cyclists from their private streets, but at least so far, they have not done so. As has been the case for decades, cyclists, runners, and walkers have just as much right to use the streets of the Biltmore as do motorists.

A group of us riding with the Arizona Bicycle Club was stopped inside the Biltmore by Officer Benjamin Carro, himself a cyclist, on Sunday morning July 1 and informed that we had no right to be there unless we were accompanied by a Biltmore resident. Two of the cyclists promptly identified themselves as Biltmore residents, which should have ended the situation if what Officer Carro said had been true, but nevertheless, Officer Carro continued to berate us. He said he wasn’t going to take names this time and indicated that he could write us all traffic tickets if he wished to. (On what grounds?) Officer Benjamin Carro was shouting loudly, making little sense, and seemed to be out of control. Paradoxically, Officer Carro, who appeared to us to have no sense of how to deal with the public, is a Community Action Officer and also a cyclist.

Three of us cyclists including a Biltmore resident met with representatives of the Mountain View (formerly Squaw Peak) Precinct to discuss the situation. Because no one at the meeting was an official Police Department spokesperson, I had to agree not to report on the meeting with one exception. I was given permission to convey to cyclists and others that they do have a right to use the streets of the Biltmore. The police officials, both sergeants, requested however that cyclists ride to the right and no more than two abreast.

If the position of the Phoenix Police Department is that cyclists have the right to ride through the Biltmore, why are the officers on site (or perhaps it is just one officer) out of step with their superiors’ position? I have no answer to that question. I have attempted to get an answer to that question from someone at the Phoenix Police Department who has the authority to speak for the organization, but I have received no response to my inquiry.

What to do if you are stopped? First, according to the officer’s boss, you have every right to ride on the streets of the Biltmore. However, there is no sense arguing with the officer, because the very fact that you were stopped while doing nothing wrong indicates that the officer is not interested in facts. Instead, politely insist that the officer give you a card or write down his or her name and badge number. (I had to undergo a second round of abuse after I asked Officer Carro for his name and badge number, but when I politely persisted, he finally gave them to me.) Then either call or write the Mountain View Precinct and complain. Although whoever receives the complaint is unlikely to admit it to you, that person will know that the officer was out of line. The more complaints that the precinct receives about an officer or officers who are not following proper police procedure, the more likely it is that someone in charge is going to take corrective action.

The Mountain View Precinct’s address is 2075 East Maryland Avenue, Phoenix, and the telephone number is (602) 495-5007. The precinct commander is Glen Gardner, although unless you are someone important, he will probably fob you off to a lower official.

Jack Quinn