Wheels of justice are turning against bike-slam officer
By Albert Amateau
A grand jury on Tuesday indicted the New York Police Department officer whose body check of a bicyclist during a Critical Mass bike ride on July 25 was captured on a video and posted on the Internet on YouTube.
Patrick Pogan — a probationary officer at the Midtown South Precinct on the force for less than two weeks at the time of the incident — was charged with falsifying records and filing a false document, both felonies, in connection with his report of his arrest of Christopher Long, the Critical Mass rider who was knocked off his bike.
Pogan was also charged with third-degree assault and making a false written statement, both misdemeanors, and second-degree harassment, a violation, according to the charges filed by District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
David B. Rankin, a lawyer representing Long, said on Tuesday that he would be working with Jonathan Moore, a lawyer with Beldock Levine & Hoffman, to bring civil charges in the matter on Long’s behalf.
“If it were not for that video, my client, Christopher Long, would most likely still be facing charges for assaulting an officer,” said Rankin. “My client is appreciative that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has taken the matter of Pogan’s fraudulent statements seriously.”
Critical Mass is a monthly bicycle ride promoted by Time’s Up!, an environmental group advocating nonpolluting transportation. The ride usually starts at Union Square and often proceeds through Times Square.
Long, who sustained back injuries and small cuts, was knocked off his bike on Seventh Ave. between 47th and 46th Sts.
Responding to the indictment, Bill DiPaola, executive director of Time’s Up!, said in a telephone interview, “We hope this is a first step in changing the way police respond not only to Critical Mass but to all the other bicycle riders.”
DiPaola said that while the Bloomberg administration has been promoting bicycling, police have been biased against cyclists.
Judy Ross, a spokesperson for Time’s Up, said in a prepared statement that the organization hopes that Mayor Bloomberg “will now direct the higher-ups at N.Y.P.D. to discontinue their pattern of excessive force and dangerous tactics against cyclists.” She said that police should work with the bicycle community to make riding safe and encourage nonpolluting transportation.
“Officer Pogan’s aggressive behavior and subsequent falsification of official documents are not isolated events in N.Y.P.D. dealings with cyclists,” Ross continued. “Just last year Richard Vasquez was thrown off his bike by N.Y.P.D. Sergeant Horohoe as Vasquez was riding through Times Square on the March 2007 Critical Mass ride. N.Y.P.D. took no action against Sergeant Horohoe even though the Civilian Complaint Review Board substantiated the charge that Sergeant Horohoe used excessive force,” Ross said.
After the July 24 incident, Pogan charged Long with resisting arrest, obstructing government administration and disorderly conduct. Pogan’s report claimed that Long steered his bike in Pogan’s direction and drove into him causing injuries, according to the charges.
In fact, the incident was videotaped and shows Pogan singling out Long and purposely body checking him off his bike, according to the charges filed by the Manhattan district attorney.