To serve and protect

Before bike video cameras and dumb phones and such, I used to practice memorizing license plates of passing cars. You never knew when some cager would buzz you or hit you and if you couldn’t identify the car the police wouldn’t do anything.

I always had a chip on my shoulder about law enforcement that didn’t care about cyclists, a chip that grew with each passing stop-sign-blowing citation. As a buddy mused the other day, and I agreed, “You know, I can’t work up outrage anymore at senseless cager killings.” He was referring to the gal who was looking for her mascara and swerved onto the shoulder, killing a cyclist, then overcorrecting into oncoming traffic and killing a motorcyclist.


Thankfully, though, she wasn’t charged or even taken in for questioning. Ventura County law enforcement is understanding like that.

My pal and I agreed that the constant stream of killings, buzzings, screamings, harassings, abusings, and throwings has made us numb. Another one bites the dust? That’s what you get for riding a bicycle, you were warned. Warned, for example, by entities like the Boston Globe, which ran a nice editorial about how bicycling is dangerous so get off the fuggin’ street.

Closer to home, The Daily Breeze champions the cause of repressed and downtrodden cagers in the South Bay.

On my afternoon pedal along PV Drive West today I heard the catcall behind me followed by the deep hum of fat tires. PV High School had just released its Adderall-addled spoiled children from their playpen, and what could be more fun than hauling your brand new Jeep Wrangler stuffed with two friends within a foot of a grumpy old fart and pelting him with a sandwich?

Answer: NOTHING!!

I swung over after forcing my middle finger back into position and dialed 911. The PVPD dispatcher took my information. “What kind of car was it?”

“2014 or 2015 Jeep Wrangler, black.”

“Did you get the license plate?”

“In fact I did. 7LBC437.”

She was kind of surprised. “And you’re on a bike?”


“I’ll send a car out. Stay there.”

“But … ”

So I stayed. The cops arrived, and one of them was the same officer who had pulled me over and ticketed me the month before. He smiled when he saw me. They took my statement and then their radios beeped. “Just a second,” said one. He listened, then looked up at me. “Well, we’ve apprehended them. Do you want to press charges?”

“Hell, yes.”

“We’ll need you to come make a field identification. They’re just up the road.”

“Great,” I said, but in reality I thought, “FUCKING AWESOME! THIS NEVER HAPPENS!”

Things soon got complicated, though. I had ID’d three boys, but in fact the driver was a boy and the thrower was a girl. They grilled me about whether I could identify her. “No,” I admitted. “I thought they were all guys. Plus, I was so busy not crashing and memorizing the license plate and model of the car … ”

The cops nodded sympathetically. Later, another cop came, this time the head supervisor. He was direct. “If he tried to hit you with his car it’s assault with a deadly weapon. You want to press charges?”

“Yes,” I said.

He was all business and had exactly zero sympathy for these rich little brats. “Okay. Let’s go do a field ID.”

“Just a sec,” I said. “I didn’t get hit. I don’t want these kids to go to jail.” I thought about my own youth, the felonies I’d committed, the people who had given me a second chance (or third, or fourth), and about how different my life would be if I’d started out life with a felony conviction.

“So you don’t think he intended to hit you?”

“If he’d intended to hit me I’d be dead now.”

“What was he doing, then?”

“He was trying to get close enough so that his girlfriend could whack me with some ham and mustard.”

“That sounds like reckless driving to me.”

“Officer,” I said, “maybe pressing charges and dragging this kid’s sorry ass through the courts will change him. But what I’d really rather have happen is that, while he’s in your custody, he comes to appreciate the seriousness of what he’s done.”

“The girls are in tears and he practically is, too. We’ve got him in our database and we’re making a report and will refer it to the city attorney, who can file charges if she wants to. I think he’s terrified.”

“I’d like to let it go, then.”

The officer nodded. “Okay.”

“And one other thing.”


“Your guys popped me for running a stop sign the other day and it always seems like you take bicycle stop sign violations more seriously than motorists trying to kill cyclists.”


“And your presence and actions today have convinced me I’m wrong. Thanks for chasing those kids down.”

“It’s our job.”

“I know,” I said. “And thank you for doing it.”



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44 thoughts on “To serve and protect”

  1. “The City Attorney is thinking it over while the guy you assaulted is letting you off”. Brilliant!

      1. But the simple truth is that you did the right thing, in my opinion. This is a great story; those kids should think long and hard about their actions, but I agree with you: not from behind bars.

      2. My old friend Jack used to tell me: “Keep your karma clean”. Didn’t say it was gonna be simple.

  2. Assault with a deadly sandwich. Isn’t that in the code?

    You of course did the right thing. The kiddies seem to have learned their lesson, and that’s the purpose of youth — to learn stuff.

    Were it an adult I’d-a told the cops to fry his ass.

      1. I bet not. I choose to think that it was a good reality check, and they’ll think harder about consequences in the future. Right?

  3. You should have asked the cops to have the kids stand on the side of the road and let you hit them with a ham sandwich. Though I realize that “an eye for an eye” may not always be the best way to move forward in life. And of course, the cops aren’t supposed to be the ones that get todecide the punishment.

  4. Great story and I may have done the same thing. Then again, I might have let them get dragged to jail before dropping charges because I’m kind of an asshole.

  5. You made a good couple of calls and no need to regret the second one but I’m sure you already no that.

    1. I remember all the times we used to climb on rooftops and throw crabapples at passing cars going 50 … none of this ham sandwich shit.

    1. Ah hah! I asked. It’s an infraction and must be witnessed by the law enforcement officer. Citizen’s arrest is available only for misdemeanors and felonies.

  6. That happened to me in almost the same spot about 12 years ago, except I got hit with flip flops instead of ham and cheese. It took MONTHS of constant followup before the cops would do ANYTHING. Finally, they agreed to at least talk to the kids and made them write an apology letter. No charges, but supposedly, the incident remained in their files until the kids were were eighteen. The worst of it was when the cops finally pursued the matter, mom first said the kids weren’t there, then she said she was driving and it was a different van. Um, yeah. Guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

    1. And that’s why I waffled. Are they hopeless pricks incapable of change or are they going to be scared straight. From the cop’s perspective, once the magic words “assault with a deadly weapon” emerged, shit seemed to get real. But who knows?

    2. I’m amazed at the amount of lost opportunities parents allow by “fixing” their kids problems! And that is why the world is in the state that it is. Kids don’t learn the little lessons one should learn in kindergarten. As the lessons get bigger and bigger and kids still don’t get the opportunity to learn from them, they are completely ill-prepared to deal with the BIG life lessons that come as adults.

  7. Everybody doing their job: kids being wreckless and stupid without killing. Wanker calling it in. Cops scaring the poop outta kids. Kids crying. Wanker reflecting. Justice keeping record of it all.

    We were cut off and flipped off by shirtless dudes in a white molestavan Tuesday. We refrained reciprocation, preferring to see our families post ride. Not easy.

    Wished we had a camera.

    Gonna add memorize plate app to my brain… If I can remember to do it.

  8. Wow they must have shit themselves ! Great life lesson last time they do anything even close to it!! Impressive Wanky

  9. First of all, I’m glad that they didn’t hit you or inflict serious harm.

    Secondly, I’m happy to hear that the PVPD did something in our favor and were willing to take it the next step. I’m hopeful that they did scare the crap out of those reckless youth and made them think about the repercussions of their actions.

    Well done Seth, well done!

    1. We also have a local cop who rides with us who has really shown that there are more than just good guys out there, there are some great ones, too.

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