Saturday, January 23, 2010

You Are Under Arrest!

Checking over my shoulder, I merge onto the roadway and head for home. Within seconds, Red lights are flashing and I am again pulled over, even though I have broken no laws.

As deputy Z* got out of his cruiser, I turned off my taillight and double checked that my water-bottle was closed. I should have thought to flip my brake release levers, but I missed that one.
“Turn around and place your hands behind your back.” With those words my liberty was suspended. I was now a prisoner of Ellis County Sheriff’s office.

Deputy Z put me in the back seat behind the drivers seat. There was no more than four inches between my seat and the back of the front seat. I had to twist sideways to find a somewhat comfortable position. The tight confines made finding a “safe” position for my ever-threatening-to-cramp legs. My cycling cap was dislodged and fell to the floor. I forgot about it when I got out of the car. This was the unit that would take my bicycle to impound, and when my bicycle was returned to me, my hat was not with it.

It was a small thing, that hat, but useful. It was the only adjustment I made with my clothes for the return trip. I went to Waxahachie bare headed, but because dusk was approaching, I wanted to retard some of the heat loss going home.

The thin and light hat is very flexible, especially when combined with skull caps and beanies, helping to keep things just right over a wide range of temperatures. There are too many pressing needs that are ahead of a new hat, so I won’t be replacing it very soon.

Deputy z began trying to fit my bicycle into the trunk. I tried not to think about it. I finally couldn’t stand it any more and I shouted at him to take the front wheel off. He came forward and opened my door to hear what I was fussing about. I calmly asked him to take the front wheel off.

He retreated to the back of the car again. I heard voices. Another unit had arrived.

The door on the passenger side was opened. A new deputy, who I regret that I failed to remember his name, asked me to get out on that side of the car. “It’s safer than on the traffic side.” He said.

I couldn’t just slide over, because there was a center post that left zero inches between the seats. My legs were still threatening to cramp, and now I had to twist and turn and worm my way across the seat. I asked him to grab my shoulder and help, and once this deputy got permission, it went much better.

This deputy had me stand on the side of the road, off the shoulder, and he patted me down. I didn’t have many places to secret contraband in my long tights! He was soon joined by another Ellis county police unit. That made ten police cruisers that contacted me that day- ten police units to suppress the Hwy 287 crime wave!

It was decided among the three that Deputy Z would take my bicycle to impound, and the deputy who helped me out of the car would take me to jail. He took charge of packing my bicycle into the car, and he wisely abandoned the idea of using the trunk. I was standing a few feet away from him, as he began to put it into the back seat. I suggested he put it in with the derailleur on the other side.

“What’s a derailleur?” he asked. “The drive train. Put it on the other side, it will go in easier.” I resigned myself to losing several available gears on the ride home due to a bent derailleur. Sigh. (My bike was undamaged in the end- Thank you, sir!)

(As I re-read this description, I can see that my dear reader could get the idea that I am being derisive of this deputy. I really think it is commendable of him. He didn’t understand, just as you and I once didn’t, and he has the self-confidence to ask a “stupid” question. Now he knows, and my instructions were clearer as I adapted them to better fit his bicycle knowledge.)

He turned the bike around, with the front wheel removed and began gingerly working it into the car. “Make the pedals parallel to the ground.” I suggested. “And turn the handlebars sideways.”
He responded magnificently and it was put away smoothly. Then he put me in front seat of his cruiser (My crampy legs were grateful!) and buckled me in.

Now as we are driving back to Waxahachie, he begins pumping me with questions, and I smelled a conspiracy to get me to say things to be used “in a court of law”. I got real careful in my answers, to only speak about the law, not motivations.

But I think he was genuinely curious, as he allowed he was crash investigation specialist. When I mentioned the legal basis for using the roadway by section address, he immediately pulled up chapter 551 on a internet connected laptop between us. With it displayed before us, we discussed the language of the bike specific laws. And we discussed some of the things that make shoulders hazardous to travel on for a cyclist. I don’t know if he was persuaded, but he listened intently and asked good questions.

I will set aside most of the interesting things that happened in the Ellis County Jail for a future post, but a couple need to mentioned now.

During processing, I was informed that the charges against me had been changed. (I don’t remember the original charges because the new charge is so astonishing.) I was arrested for: “Operating a bicycle on the roadway.” Wow. That is sort of like being arrested for walking on a sidewalk!

I also want to make clear that there were many courtesies extended towards me, most done without my requesting them. There is nothing that I can complain about over my treatment, and much that I have to be grateful for. I have a lot to say about this later as well.

So I have been ticketed twice for operating legally on a public road, and even arrested for it, having my liberty physically suspended for a period of nineteen hours. (Although I did sort of ask for it!) I am becoming anxious to present my case before a judge. I cannot guarantee that there won’t be more crime waves breaking out on Hwy 287.

* Sadly, I do not remember this deputy’s name, although I am sure it began with a “Z”. I normally have trouble remembering names, and this had been a busy day. In my defense, I expected his name to be on my paperwork, and it is not. But I have the right to confront my accuser, so I will see him again.


  1. So, what help do you need to ensure that justice prevails? I am very sorry to hear this, as I was confident that the police would research the law better after earlier encounters.

  2. I am amazed by your persistence.

  3. Cultural bias prevails, even in police departments. Geo (the LE program director) deals with cops who argue tooth and nail against the law, even when you spell it out for them. This is why we're building the Toolkit - to get it into departments, and hopefully the academy.

  4. Chipseal, you are a fascinating and inspiring piece of work. I sincerely hope that all of this pans out according to the laws you know so well.

    If you're feeling sort of alone in all this, remember we're all on your side. Sadly, that doesn't translate into political pressure... just moral support.


  5. this is fudged-up. glad u r ok.

  6. I dont understand... What part of the law have you broken? Sounds to me like you were following the letter of the law as described in Sec. 545.058

  7. Might be good to get a lawyer, or you might end up riding some railroad sentencing out in Kangaroo County. I would also think you're entitled to some financial remuneration. Seriously, that's just appalling.

  8. What? You only have one hat? Heck I have several, including one from Mellow Johnny's down in Austin.

    Com'on Chip... you need more hats!