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.

Bert Spaan got his dis-con charge thrown out and is preparing to sue the city for wrongful arrest.
Bert Spaan got his dis-con charge thrown out and is preparing to sue the city for wrongful arrest.

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.”

  • Ken Dodd

    Good for you.

    Tonight as I rode up 6th Avenue between 34th and 35th st, an NYPD cruiser overtook me at speed and suddenly swerved right in front of me, braking hard in the bike lane. I was forced to swerve into 6th Avenue and almost got hit by a truck. As I past the cop I turned around as if to say “WTF” and he was just sitting there tapping away on his iPhone. Meanwhile, a stream of other cyclists had to swerve into 6th Avenue to get past him. We cannot tolerate these shitbags any longer. A huge proportion of NYPD officers do not have the intelligence or common decency to work in the police and should be stripped of their badges.

  • CroatianSalt

    If he had been black and banged on a cop car window and mouthed off like that, he’d probably be dead now. Even so, what Spaan did was dumb – you don’t give grief to cops. Just let it go.

    But I suspect this guy feels like he is on some mission from God.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    If white people who won’t be shot don’t stand up to police misconduct, who will?

  • Vooch

    all animals are equal

    some are more equal than others

  • Heaven forbid a civilian try to hold a piece of shit politician or a dangerous police officer accountable for their actions. Ya know, those two types of individuals will always talk about “personal responsibility” as it relates to the rest of us, but they’re always the first ones to absolve themselves of any guilt or any responsibility when they commit a crime or behave dangerously or inappropriately. But you go ahead and hide behind your bullshit account, since we all know you’re a weak individual.

  • Simon Phearson

    It’s the widespread belief that “you don’t give grief to cops” that makes it so dangerous to do so. Maybe if we did it more often, there would be less at risk when we do.

  • Rex Rocket

    Hey, Police Texts Matter.

  • CroatianSalt

    Knowing whom and when to respect is a basic skill, as is being able to keep your emotions under control. It’s possible to have a discussion with a cop without engaging in conduct that is disorderly.

  • CroatianSalt

    There are ways of bringing up a grievance without being abusive. If this guy cannot control his emotions then he should be out there on the roads. This was road rage.

  • CroatianSalt

    It’s possible to stand up for yourself without striking inanimate objects and being verbally abusive

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    It’s weird to phrase knocking on someone’s window as “striking inanimate objects”. It kinda sounds like you’re not really speaking in good faith here.

  • CroatianSalt

    No, if a vehicle nearly hits you it is not the vehicles fault, so hitting it is irrational. You instead need to discuss the matter with the driver and express your point of view without losing it.

    I dislike all forms of road rage regardless of who the perp is and what kind of vehicle they are in or on.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    No, if a vehicle nearly hits you it is not the vehicles fault, so hitting it is irrational.

    There’s basically no way to get someone’s attention inside of a closed car other than knocking on the window. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do and not at all indicative of “road rage”.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Do you have a link to a story where it is alleged that he was abusive?

  • Simon Phearson

    Sure. I mean, I’ve often approached cops while biking, to ask questions about unexpected street closures. I take off my commuting glasses, step out of traffic, and address them respectfully.

    That’s not the kind of situation we’re talking about here. The cop assaulted the cyclist with his vehicle. It’s natural, in those kinds of situations, to respond in a less than civil fashion. If anyone should learn how to react appropriately here, it’s the cop, who responded by ticketing the cyclist on a BS charge.

  • CroatianSalt

    Being uncivil is never justified.

    And did the cop “assault” the cyclist? The cyclist said he did and the cop says he didn’t. It’s a he-said; she-said thing.

  • CroatianSalt

    Of course there are other ways of gaining somebody’s attention. But you know and I know that striking out like that is a sign on a lack of emotional control.

    I’ve addressed a cop in his cop before by simply signalling for him to wind down his window. No problem.

  • CroatianSalt

    I have the same links as you. The article chooses to take the cyclist’s side but then, hey, it’s Streetblog so it would.

    Generally speaking, if an angry cyclist bangs on a vehicle it’s not because he intends a civil and sensitive exchange of views. It’s because he is pissed and failing to control his emotions.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    People in cars will very often not notice a signal, especially coming from the side. People often get tunnel vision looking out of the windshield.

    I’ve always been taught that knocking is polite, and I’ve done it on windows, doors, cubicles… you name it. Nobody has freaked out about it before and sought to punish me – not even people in cars.

  • CroatianSalt

    Depends. A light tap might just be OK although you probably should never frighten someone with a gun who might think you are engaged in a car-jacking or some such.

    Personally I think it is better not to even touch someone else’s property, as there are so many ways that can be misinterpreted. And I suspect this guy actually banged on the vehicle in anger, hence the reaction.

    And I suspect those who just let go such perceived slights probably enjoy better outcomes than those who feel a need to lecture the other party. Move on.

  • Menachem Goldshteyn

    How much are taxpayers on the hook for lawsuits as a result of misconduct by officers that could be completely avoided?

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