In this the day afterward of the disappointing (but not unexpected) result of my traffic court appearance yesterday, I’ve been sullenly grumbly and mumbly pretty much everywhere: at my desk, in the shower, getting dressed, on my bike commute today at work, at the office, in the bathroom, on my bike commute home, and back here at my desk.
Grumble. Grumble. Grumble.
So far the animals and my beloved wife have been pretty tolerant, but at one point this morning after Susan went to work and while I was getting ready to go I woke the dogs with a start going unannounced from my subsonic grumbly mumblies and ratzafratzins into a sudden and sharp and entirely out-loud Perry Mason-esque admonishment to the judge for failing to fully consider a discrepancy in the officer’s testimony yesterday. Replete with dramatic arm wave and punctuating finger point.
In other words I’ve yet begun to get over yesterday’s courtroom defeat. Surprise: I’m lost in a sea of frustration gambling at the Shoulda-Said table in the Hindsight Casino on the deck of the USS After The Fact. Waitress! Another greyhound — this time with more hound and less grey!
Ohhhhh yeaaaaaaah: I’m dwelling.
Ratza fratzin bratza scratzin.
But there’s hope. In what’s usually a sure sign I’m emerging from my funk, I wrote the following letter to the commissioner who ruled on the case… now if I can just remember his name:
Given the number of people and cases you encounter on a daily basis Iâ€™m certain you wonâ€™t remember me or mine, so by way of a reintroduction I was the first to appear before you in the afternoon session of January 11 in an attempt to obtain a dismissal of the citation received in June 2009 from an LAPD officer for my alleged failure to stop at a stop sign while bicycling in Larchmont Village.
While your ruling against me was a disappointment, I appreciated the time you spent questioning us both. Your decision proved my efforts futile, but not a waste as it allowed me to finally submit publicly something Iâ€™ve known for the six months that passed since the citationâ€™s issuance: that the officer misrepresented his location at the time and place of my reported violation.
Personally, I thought I presented a pretty compelling argument that cast a reasonable doubt upon the officerâ€™s version of events, but I did so knowing full well that barring a surprise confession by the officer and in the absence of indisputable physical evidence or unimpeachable witness testimony that could have refuted his written and verbal statements as to his purported location, it came down to you having to choose between the word of a civilian and that of a sworn officer of the law. As such, I can understand how it can seem practically your obligation to accept the officerâ€™s testimony over mine.
Since Iâ€™m not disputing your choice, whatâ€™s the point of this letter? Itâ€™s two-fold. First, itâ€™s for closure; to be able to relate to you what I couldnâ€™t after you decided my guilt â€“ out of respect both for the process and for your decision (as well as for the bailiffâ€™s earlier instructions that upon rendering of a verdict defendants must essentially shut up and get out or risk being held in contempt). Second, because as a dedicated and conscientious commuter cyclist â€“ one who travels with consideration and integrity more than 6,500 miles each year across Los Angeles â€“ it is important to promote the positives of my chosen mode of transportation and to defend it against the bias I often encounter. Itâ€™s a prejudice seen firsthand not only from many of the civilian motorists I attempt to share the road with in my daily travels but now also by those in positions of authority such as the officer involved. Regardless of the outcome, I had no choice but to appear before you to represent and to argue that I was unfairly and improperly cited. It was all about the principle, not the penalty.
I close with a humble hope. That in the future when you and your fellow commissioners find cyclist defendants with the courage and determination (and trust me it takes both) to stand before you and beside their accusers vying for a respect that seems automatically granted the officers, should they present persuasive statements that call their guilt into question, do endeavor to provide them the full consideration they deserve instead of a rationed version of it. Because the decision you make between accepting their testimony or the officersâ€™ should always be a choice, not a foregone conclusion.