Cyclist Ticketed After Almost Getting Run Over By NYPD Officer Gets Case Thrown Out
The judge threw out the charges against Bert Spaan on December 1, and Spaan is now preparing a wrongful arrest lawsuit.
Between the placard-flaunting state senator harassing people on bikes and the NYPD sticking to their “ticket ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out” approach, it can be tough to find stories that end well for cyclists. Here’s one with a satisfying conclusion though: A Brooklyn man who says he was cited for disorderly conduct after confronting a police officer for nearly running him off the road got the charges thrown out and is preparing to sue the city for wrongful arrest, according to his attorney.
Bert Spaan, a 34-year-old resident of Greenpoint, received the disorderly conduct summons this summer.
According to Spaan, he was biking on Myrtle Avenue in Bed-Stuy when the officer nearly swerved into him, forcing him out of the traffic lane. Spaan said he knocked on the window of the officer’s cruiser to tell him about the near miss, and the officer responded by pulling him over in an intersection, telling him to get a helmet, and giving him a ticket for disorderly conduct.
The judge threw the charges out on December 1 after a couple of appearances in criminal court, says Spaan’s lawyer, Andrew Stengel. “Like the millions of other people that go to summons court and stand with a public defender for 10 seconds and they plea bargain to some public health law violation and pay a $100 fine, the police thought they would just sweep this under the rug,” Stengel said. “But Bert asserted his innocence and stood up for himself.”
“I’d like to think the case was thrown out totally on merit,” Stengel told Streetsblog, “though I don’t know the answer to that.”
Stengel and Spaan filed a notice of claim, an intention to sue the city, in September, and now have about 15 months to officially file the lawsuit. The first step, known as a 50-h hearing, should take place by the end of December and will involve Spaan testifying under oath as to what happened leading up to the ticket.
“I think he would have preferred me to cross-examine the police officer under oath and watch him lie or squirm, but a dismissal is a good outcome nonetheless,” Stengel said. But the officer might still have to testify should the wrongful arrest lawsuit make it to trial.
Stengel said the biggest lesson for cyclists to take away from this case is that they shouldn’t be afraid to assert their constitutional rights and force the government to make their case. He also said there needs to be a culture change in the way police relate to cyclists, echoing the message Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams sounded at a vigil for Edwin Ajacalon last month.
“The NYPD for some reason, they treat cyclists like they’re aliens, like you landed here on a UFO,” Stengel said. “It doesn’t seem like the NYPD knows how to interact with cyclists whether they’re driving or when something bad happens. I think police have a lot to learn about the dangerous way cars interact with cyclists and not the other way around.”