NYPD Admits It Wrongly Accused Lauren Davis of Biking Against Traffic

NYPD has amended the crash report that wrongly accused Lauren Davis of biking against traffic when she was struck and killed by a turning driver on Classon Avenue the morning of April 15.

As head of NYPD Highway Patrol, Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri is responsible for police crash investigations.
As head of NYPD Highway Patrol, Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri is responsible for police crash investigations.

Yesterday, Streetsblog published an account from witness Rebecca Ballantine, who was biking on Classon at the same time as Davis and said she was “absolutely sure [Davis] was not biking against traffic.” At the time we ran the story, NYPD’s public information office still said Davis was biking the wrong way when she was struck.

Now NYPD has updated its crash report, according to Nathan Tempey at Gothamist:

A department representative said this morning that investigators have amended their report to indicate that Davis was riding with traffic, and that they are in conversation with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office about possible charges.

While it’s good that police have corrected their mistake and are moving forward with the investigation, much of the damage has already been done. False information permeated the news cycle following the crash, feeding the perception that cyclists are culpable when they’re struck and killed by motorists.

Now the question is: What will NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and Highway Patrol chief Michael Ameri, who’s in charge of the Collision Investigation Squad, do to prevent this from happening again?

NYPD’s premature judgment in this case is part of a broader pattern of police bias in crash investigations, which often leads to press accounts that erroneously blame victims.

One reform was suggested by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams — himself a former police officer — at a memorial ride held for Davis and James Gregg, who was killed last week while biking in Park Slope.

Adams called on police to refrain from publicly discussing details of crashes while investigations are underway, according to the Brooklyn Eagle. “We should not assume that the cyclist was always the person responsible for a crash or had accepted the risk simply by climbing on a bicycle,” he said.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Now the question is: What will NYPD do to prevent this from happening again?”

    The other question is, what will the media do to prevent this from happening again?

    It is the old media that that seeks out anonymous comments from the police that tell them what they think their aging readers want to hear.

    And it is the old media that chooses not to publicize how often it has given wrong information.

    Is commissioner Bratton more to blame for some patrolman spouting off than the media that reported the false information?

    I recall reading in the Daily News many years ago that while cyclists should be protected, the accidents that injure them are their fault most of the time. The source of this information?

    The only way for ordinary people to come to understand what is actually true is for all those falls reports from the past to be disavowed.

  • Sometimes it’s a precinct cop spouting off at the scene, and sometimes it’s full-time crash investigators who put shoddy information into their report, which is then propagated by the NYPD public information desk whenever someone contacts them for details on the crash.

    In this case, it was crash investigators who jumped to conclusions and filed a bad report, but both problems need to be addressed.

  • Its particularly disturbing that the crash investigators would get it wrong which direction the involved party was traveling at the time of the crash. That’s about as basic as it gets.

  • J

    Step 1: Get Bratton to get in line with Vision Zero or fire him. Seriously, the fish rots from the head, and he has given every indication that he does not care about the lives of people killed in NYC traffic.

  • Pat

    …Elsewhere, the NYPD doubles down on their “wind gust” theory.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Let’s see what all the news sources that made the initial false report have to day tomorrow.

    Gothamist prominently posted the corrected information, as did Streetsblog.

  • BBnet3000

    It’s perfectly normal and should be expected for someone who has just severely injured or killed someone to lie about it. Crashes involving people walking or cycling seem to be the only realm in which the police accept that account with so little reservation.

    I suspect it’s because in the old way of thinking in New York where cars are an important status symbol, if you drive daily you’re an “important person” and if you don’t, you’re not.

  • JudenChino

    Right! This is the core of their job. “oh, well the driver said the bicyclist (that they didn’t see until they struck them) was riding the wrong way!”

    But this is all about bias. You don’t see them taking the word of accuseds’ who say, “I was just trying to cut up this chicken for dinner and she literally ran into my knife and killed herself. I can’t believe what she was thinking.”

  • Diane Rudell grandmother

    So glad that honesty prevailed and that police report was corrected. Beautiful Lauren is no longer with us due to negligence of driver perhaps going too fast. Hope the investigators will be able get all the aspects of accident corrected. The tragedy of Lauren’s death touches many lives including family and friends and the initial erroneous report of accident only added to the pain of her loss. I must also add the police have a very heavy work load and the media also jumps the gun too quickly before the investigation is completed. Officer Fenley was very kind and understanding to my questions when I spoke to him several days after accident.

  • Jared R

    Until NYPD officers LIVE IN THE NEIGHBORHOODS THEY PATROL and not the suburbs, they will continue to blame the victim. These are people that have windshield goggles: they drive every day, can’t imagine walking or cycling, and better relate to the identity of the driver than the urban walker/dweller. To them, the city is a “zoo full of animals.” Who cares when animals are run over? They were in the way.

    And until pedestrian/transit/safety advocates understand this, nothing will change. Suburbanites don’t understand you and they never will. Just as much as you cannot understand them. Suburbanites/drivers’ brains are literally shaped differently than yours (neuroplasticity).

  • John C.

    DI Ameri is the former CO for the 78 Pct., and in his current position heads the unit that will “investigate” the death of James Gregg in his former precinct. He’s shown signs of positive action in the past, still waiting for the much needed changes to the Highway Patrol – he’s been there almost 2 years already! From this article, not much has changed: http://www.streetsblog.org/2014/07/17/4-reforms-michael-ameri-must-make-to-nypd-crash-investigations/

  • @Larry Littlefield – The oft-repeated claim that bicyclists are at fault for our injuries most of the time is based on statistics from police reports, which suffer from survivor bias and the reporting officers’ observer bias (as they tend to be motorists themselves, not bicyclists).

    Way back in the 1990s, Streetsblog contributor Charles Komanoff did an analysis of police reports which found that motorists magically became more at-fault when a third-party eyewitness was there. Oh, and it’s not just bicyclists, the same is true for pedestrians.

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