Hey, Chief Chan, Here’s a Cop Who Drives Like a Sociopath!

The police motto is "To protect and serve." But in Downtown Brooklyn, cyclists' motto is "To detect and swerve." Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
The police motto is "To protect and serve." But in Downtown Brooklyn, cyclists' motto is "To detect and swerve." Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Here’s another bad apple in an already spoiled bunch.

Two weeks after a top commander in the NYPD told the City Council that he always addresses placard abuse by officers around department facilities, the bike lane on Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn remains filled with illegally parked officers’ private cars — including one that has 28 moving violation tickets on its record since 2014.

Transit 30 cop
The cop’s full summons record. Photo: Howsmydriving.nyc

The vehicle was parked in the exact spot that NYPD Transportation Bureau Chief Thomas Chan was told about at the council hearing on Oct. 24 — and even got two parking tickets since Chan testified that he warns precinct commanders to crack down on illegal parking by cops whenever he learns of a transgression. The block — and its painted bike lane — remains filled with vehicles bearing NYPD placards from Transit Bureau 30, which is housed on Schermerhorn between Hoyt and Bond streets.

No one actually believes that Chan calls up precinct commanders to warn them — and the NYPD has declined repeated requests to provide evidence that he does. Because the problem of police parking in bike lanes, on sidewalks and in front of hydrants persists, Streetsblog has reported that there are only three possibilities:

1. Chan is lying when he says he calls up precinct commanders to order them to solve the parking problem.

2. Chan is not lying that he discusses the issue with precinct commanders, but the precinct commanders are ignoring him.

3. Chan is not lying, but has no juice within the department to actually change the unsafe and disrespectful behavior that even NYPD supporters admit is rampant.

The Brooklyn officer in question has been nabbed by New York City speed cameras for 21 speeding tickets and seven right-light tickets since 2014, according to a plate check on Howsmydriving.nyc, which compiles all existing camera and parking violations. But the full extent of police officers’ reckless driving is unknown because public data only reveals tickets that are issued automatically; NYPD officers are reluctant to write tickets against fellow officers or employees, so police driving records are likely far worse that what is documented in city data.

The Downtown Brooklyn transit bureau employee is certainly not the worst we’ve found — that dishonor goes to an officer in Brooklyn’s 78th Precinct, whose car had been nabbed for 53 speeding tickets and five red-light tickets — since March, 2017 (update: since that story ran, he’s been caught for 10 more serious moving violations, all in southern Brooklyn, far from his command in Park Slope!)

The continued violations by police officers is particularly frustrating because Mayor promised in April that he would hold accountable recklessly driving cops, whose decision to park in bike lanes endangers the public by forcing riders into traffic. Our “S-cop-laws” series on recklessly driving police employees revealed that nearly 38 percent of cops’ private vehicles have been nabbed for multiple serious moving violations, which is roughly double the rate of the general public.

The issue appears to be a problem beyond the five boroughs, and even came up at a federal hearing on the 36-percent rise in bicyclists’ deaths nationally since 2009. At that National Transportation Safety Board hearing, a panelist asked a staff researcher if his team’s safety research included data about how many cyclists were killed in crashes after being forced into traffic by an illegally parked car or truck.

“Blocked bike lanes [are] not just annoying, it’s a safety issue,” said the researcher, Dr. Ivan Cheung. “But if a truck blocked a bike lane, even if it caused a crash, you won’t see that in the reports because they focus on vehicles in the crash. I asked the law enforcement community if they keep track of those situations and was told they don’t.”

So Chief Chan is not the only weak leader. But we nonetheless reached out to him on Thursday morning to again ask the following question:

On Thursday, Oct. 24, you testified before the City Council that whenever you learn about illegal parking by officers, you always alert precinct commanders to do something about it. At that time, you were shown a video of officers parking their private cars in the bike lane on Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn (in front of Transit Bureau 30). You said you would call the commanding officer there. Our question, Chief, is, have you done so? If so, why are police officers’ vehicles still in that bike lane today?

We also reached out to City Hall, as we have done several times during our series, to ask the following questions:

Today, in Downtown Brooklyn, we spotted a cop’s personal vehicle parked in the bike lane on Schermerhorn Street and ran his plate to reveal 70 parking violations, including 21 speeding tickets and 7 red light tickets since 2014 — including FIVE speeding tickets in a 28-day period this summer. Here are our questions:

  • What has the mayor done to punish city employees who drive recklessly?
  • How many NYPD officers have been punished for reckless driving so far this year?
  • Has anyone with City Hall or the NYPD contacted the commander of the Transit Bureau 30 on Schermerhorn to alert him or her of illegal parking by his or her officers?

Only City Hall got back to us (sort of):

“The mayor expects all city employees to follow traffic laws, and has made clear to all city agencies that employees who violate the laws will be disciplined accordingly,” spokesman Will Baskin-Gerwitz said. He declined to answer further questions.

We will update this story if we hear more.

NYPD Transportation Bureau Chief Thomas Chan after his Council testimony on Oct. 24. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
NYPD Transportation Bureau Chief Thomas Chan after his Council testimony on Oct. 24. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman