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Four LAPD officers accused of clashing with bicyclists are relie

The Los Angeles Times: Four LAPD officers accused of clashing with bicyclists are relieved of field duty

The department launches an internal investigation into a videotaped altercation Friday night in Hollywood that appears to show an officer kicking the wheel of a cyclist.

By Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times
June 3, 2010

Four police officers involved in a clash with cyclists in Hollywood during a protest ride have been removed from field duty while investigators review the incident, officials said Wednesday.

The move comes as outrage over the videotaped incident grows, threatening to derail LAPD Chief Charlie Beck's recent efforts to improve relations between the department and cyclists who have complained about the way police treat them.

The LAPD launched an internal investigation into the Friday night altercation after a videotape that appears to show an officer kicking the wheel of a passing bicyclist circulated across the Internet.

Several bike riders have also accused police of other aggressive behavior during the ride, including allegations that police tackled several cyclists off their bikes and jammed a baton into the spokes of one bicycle. None of those incidents are shown on the tape.

LAPD Commander Andrew Smith said the internal investigation will look at all the incidents of alleged police use-of-force as well as address complaints by one bike activist that the LAPD refused to take a complaint when he called the Hollywood watch commander. Investigators will also look into whether officers forced the person who shot the video to stop recording moments after the alleged kick occurred.

The video, posted on YouTube with the title "Hollywood Cops Attack Bike Riders," inflamed L.A.'s cycling community. It had been viewed more than 73,000 times by Wednesday.

The cyclists gathered early Friday evening for the monthly Critical Mass ride, which took them to the BP gas station on Beverly Boulevard for a protest against the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and then through nearby streets.

When they arrived at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue they found officers there to ticket cyclists who failed to stop at red lights, according to a police statement.

Cyclists say that's when tensions peaked.

On video, officers can be seen converging on the person filming before the picture scrambles and goes black. The picture then reappears, with the camera apparently on the ground angled up toward the officers, whose clubs are drawn. One policeman says, "Get up," as another orders, "Get down."

"What'd I do?" a man can be heard saying.

At a monthly meeting of the city's bicycle advisory committee Wednesday, several dozen cyclists gathered to express their complaints about the incident.

Beck, who was in attendance, told cyclists the investigation would be a "high-priority issue," according to Aurisha Smolarski of the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition.

Officers with the department's internal affairs unit took statements from witnesses during the meeting.

At a meeting with activists in February, Beck vowed to make the department more responsive to the rights of cyclists. The department has moved in recent months to revise policies on how it classifies and investigates hit and runs, and activists have praised a program that gives officers training in bike issues.

"In six months, more has been accomplished with Beck than with 10 years of LAPD," said Stephen Box, a cycling advocate who meets regularly with the newly formed LAPD bicycle task force. "I mean we were doing some great work, and then this incident takes place and destroys all that."

kate.linthicum@latimes.com

Times staff writer Andrew Blankstein contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times