His First Arrest

There’s nothing unusual about a defendant being on trial for his first arrest.  What is unusual is when that he’s the person who made the arrest, and it was his first as a police officer.  The trial of Patrick Pogan  for his assault on bicyclist Christopher Long during the Critical Mass rally in Manhattan has opened, which I like to call the “Big Shove.”

As it turns out, Pogan, who has since resigned from the force, was a mere baby cop when he become a video star of the internet.  According to his lawyer, Stuart London, Pogan was just following orders.

But Mr. London said during his opening statement that Mr. Pogan, who had been on the force for just 11 days when the confrontation happened, was naïve and simply following the orders of his superiors. At a briefing earlier that evening, a captain told Mr. Pogan and other young officers that they needed to issue summonses, Mr. London said.

“How do we stop them?” an officer asked, according to Mr. London.

“Do what you have to do to get them off their bikes,” the captain responded, according to Mr. London.

So Pogan ran over to Long and slammed him off his bike as Long tried to pass.  A bit literal, but it did serve to get Long off the bike.  Still, this fails to explain why Pogan decided that Long would be the person to be debiked.  London explains that too in his opening.

Mr. Pogan’s lawyer vigorously attacked Mr. Long, 31, as a reckless, pot-smoking miscreant who was the provocateur that night.

“Christopher Long is a bike rider that conned Pogan in this whole situation,” Stuart London, Mr. Pogan’s lawyer, said in his opening statement. “Christopher Long is a bike rider who knew exactly what he was doing.”

So it was the crafty criminal mastermind, bicyclist Long, who played agent provocateur to naïve rookie Pogan, compelling the officer to run toward Long and body slam him to the ground as part of his scheme as a reckless, pot-smoking miscreant.  This wasn’t immediately clear from the video  that’s been around since the incident, or apparently a second video taken by a cyclist behind Long.

(Addendum: At the request of readers too lazy to click on the link to see the video, here’s a reprise)

Now that London cleared that up, what of the criminal complaint  filed by Pogan alleging that Long attacked him (and it should be noted that police officers, in the heat of performing their stressful work, sometimes confuse who attacked whom.  No seriously, it can happen).

The arrest was Mr. Pogan’s first, Mr. London said, and his sergeant was the one who filled out the report. Mr. Pogan merely signed off on it, and was not trying to cover anything up, Mr. London said.

There you have it.  Pogan wasn’t being evil, but just didn’t read the complaint when he swore it was truthful.  I mean, does anybody serious buy into that whole swearing to tell the truth thing?

There is a monumental schism between the defense of a cop and the defense of anyone else in America.  When defending a cop, as London regularly does on behalf of the PBA, you can make outrageous claims and allegations that would be absurd when defending anyone else.  This is because people want to believe that the police are here to protect and serve, are really the good guys, would never do what is clearly shown on the video.  People struggle to find excuses, no matter how far-fetched, for their wrongdoing.  They need to believe.

London’s allegations about Christopher Long are ridiculous.  That doesn’t mean that they won’t fly, although this particular case presents one of the longest stretches to reach for a not guilty verdict we’re likely to see.  Whether it flies will be told when the verdict is returned.

Until then, it’s worth bearing in mind that had there been no video of the Big Shove, it would have been Christopher Long on trial for assaulting rookie cop Jason Pogan.  And the verdict would have likely been a foregone conclusion.

31 thoughts on “His First Arrest

  1. Windypundit

    At least he’s off the police force and seems likely to stay that way. Police unions actually brag about being able to get officers reinstated if they are acquitted. Innocent until proven guilty is a great principle when it comes to throwing people in prison, but it’s setting the bar awful low if conviction is the only way to get fired. I’d like to think cops are held to a higher standard than “not a felon.”

  2. John R.

    It’s very difficult to convict police officers. As you say, the jury NEEDS to believe, and the alternative is very frightening: an innocent person can get shafted by the system.

    This accounts for both the prevalence of acquittals when the defendant is a police officer and the prevalence of convictions the rest of the time.

  3. Dan

    That it was not Pogan, but the sergeant who drafted the criminal complaint (with Pogan signing off on it) is 100% credible to me. That doesn’t make Pogan’s acquiescence any less evil, but rather a more insidious portrait emerges where the baby cop is being protected and taught by the more senior officer- “not to worry son, here’s what you do, when you beat on somebody, you charge them with assaulting you. Problem solved.” I wonder if that sort of argument that the cover up came from the higher ups will ever come back to bite London in his next police case. Probably not.

  4. David

    “Mr. Pogan’s lawyer vigorously attacked Mr. Long, 31, as a reckless, pot-smoking miscreant who was the provocateur that night.”

    Hang on – I thought blaming the victim was something law-enforcement types disapproved of.

  5. SHG

    Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. Or in other words, not when it works for them.

  6. Stephen

    I didn’t realise that being a reckless, pot-smoking miscreant meant that the police could body slam you off your bike. I’ll have to be more careful in future.

  7. Jdog

    I’m thinking, more and more, that the defense comes down to an implicit argument that Critical Mass riders in general and Christopher Long in particular needed shovin’.

  8. Jdog

    Sure. And in Minnesota, it’d be he needed lutefisk, and the cop’d be convicted on grounds of cruel and unusual punishment.

  9. Alan

    As a former (retired) police officer, I can tell you that the police do what they need to do to get the job done. Right or wrong, the police sometimes need to circumvent the letter of the law an instead use the spirit of the law to get these scumbags off the street.
    Truthfully, I can tell you that MOST people that get arrested by the cops are guilty. The police are, for the most part, an honest bunch, but they need to use all tools available to get the job done. Despite what what some others may think.

  10. SHG

    While the fundamental error of your “right or wrong” perspective that cops are somehow justified in breaking the law to “get the job done” is ironic, I doubt anyone would otherwise disagree with your statement.  The problem is that breaking the law isn’t a tool for enforcing the law, even if cops think so.

  11. Karl Mansoor

    So…excessive force and lying are within “the spirit of the law?”

    …and “they need to use all tools available to get the job done?” Why not just shoot him and throw down a knife?

    …and shoot the videographer too. Then Pogan wouldn’t have his current problems and he could go on enforcing the “spirit of the law.”

  12. Stephen

    “get these scumbags off the street” is used literally here – scumbags means cyclist (if you’re an angry driver) and get them off the street is literally what they’re doing, with their shoulder.

    The purpose of the Critical Mass bike rally is/was to show how unfriendly the city is towards cyclists. Suitably this is demonstrated by one of the police at the event charging a cyclist off the road on tape.

  13. Jdog

    Well, sure. Many motorists and pedestrians are unfriendly to masses of cyclists slowing down traffic, or “corking” streets to enable them to keep their mass of cyclists together.

    I’m one of them; I’ve been delayed on two occasions by our local CM crowd, and if a whole bunch of them had injured themselves riding into potholes, it wouldn’t have broken my boyish heart. A huge waste — there were at least ten squads and a mobile booking station accompanying them, and I can think of a lot better things that a 850-cop department can be doing with somewhere around 20% of their on-duty uniformed officers.

    And while I think that there are probably better ways for so many cops to spend their time, if the NYPD had decided to ticket and/or appropriately arrest all of the CM riders who were violating the laws, I’d have no beef with it. Manifestly, they’d have all sorts of probable cause for the tickets, and perhaps for some arrests. No biggie.

    And if Pogan had, while attempting to stop Long, miscalculated how, say, grabbing the bike would have turned out, well, not much of a big deal, either.

    But that is not what he did. He ran up and shoved Long, and instead of manning up and admitting what he did — and letting the chips fall where they may — he lied about having been assaulted. (My guess is that he’d have gotten a slap on the wrist — if that — for the assault.) In writing. And tried to turn an assault by him into an assault on him.

    That’s kind of a no-no.

  14. Dan

    Commenter Alan above left out the part about having carte blanche to do what needs to be done (e.g. bodyslam a bikerider) because there is an element of physical risk to a police officer’s job. Obviously he is not working from an official police script and is not a real retired police officer, but a troll. Also missing is the part about us civillians not understanding what its like. Another dead giveaway.

  15. Stephen

    Yeah, definitely. I just appreciated the unintentional double meaning in get them off the streets in Alan’s comment and the fact that this (anti cyclist attitude) was exactly the sort of thing that the rally was organised to highlight. I think my comment takes on a less aggressive character if I say I’m not an angry driver (I ride the bus) and was just working with the words in the quote.

    I think you can either make a mistake or try to cover it up but once you do the second one you lose your opportunity to claim the first. To err is human, to cover up depressingly frequent.

  16. John Beaty

    Well, jDog, you might want to come to grips with the notion that the streets weren’t made just for 4-wheel vehicles, and, while an occassional mass ride might disrupt traffic, it is nothing compared to the massive disruption that the rest of us experience twice each day due to you and 300,000 other cars.

    In other words, what is sauce for the goose…

  17. Jdog

    Well, I’ve been described — in print –as “vaguely pear-shaped.” Definition of character, alas, is not actionable.

  18. John David Galt

    It’s a well known fact that the purpose of Critical Mass rides — all of them — is to block traffic, to “protest” driving by bullying drivers. And that’s wrong and illegal and SHOULD be illegal.

    Given those facts, how WOULD you have police do their duty of shutting down the rides and arresting the riders?

    Because it IS their duty. And if they decide they won’t try to do it anymore, then drivers will have no choice but to bully the CM riders back, in whatever ways they’re able.

    The social contract goes both ways. You can’t expect victims of wrong to let perps get off scot-free merely because the police don’t always find it convenient to do their jobs.

  19. SHG

    When you put individual words in ALL CAPS, does it make you think that you’re closer to sanity?  Thanks, as always for bringing a perspective that would never occur to normal folks.

  20. John

    QUOTE “MOST people that get arrested by the cops are guilty”

    And most cops aren’t the problem. One study found that 5% of the Chicago police were responsible for the majority of the complaints.

    The problem is that even after 50+ complaints the cops weren’t even flagged for problems.

    In fact when the city counsel DID ask to see the records on complaints Mayor Daley & the police captain Jody tried to stop them from getting the records!
    (Records that ANYONE should be able to get.)
    And Jody refused to give them up even after losing in court, until he was charged with contempt.

    So part of that 5% seems to be the Mayor & Chief of Police.

  21. Cheryl

    Duh- The officers name is Patrick Pogan; if you can’t get the ex-officers name correct I have little confidence in anything you write.

  22. SHG

    Mistakes are made, and a kind reader would alert me to the error so it can be corrected (as it has now been).  But you’re just a bit too narcissistic, thinking that your personal confidence is my paramount concern . Simple Justice is clearly not good enough for you, so for your own sake, good bye.

  23. Jdog

    And, in other news, Pogan’s been convicted not of the assault, but of the lying thingee.

    An optimist might think that the jury wanted to say, “it isn’t the crime, but the cover-up.” (I’m sure about that; I just asked one.)

  24. SHG

    I just got off the phone with the Village Voice guy, who wanted to know how he beat the assault.  Me too.

    “Just doing my duty, Ma’am.”

  25. John

    QUOTE “And that’s wrong and illegal and SHOULD be illegal.”

    What ever gave you the idea roads are the sole domain of autos??

    Our local laws say even skateboards are to be ridden in the streets. (And this I think is crazy.)

    And out on the roads, you never know what you’ll run into, an Amish wagon, farm tractors, harvesters, etc etc…plus bicycles.

  26. John David Galt

    I never said roads are the sole domain of autos. But anyone who is on a road, not to get somewhere but for the purpose of hampering driving, is a criminal and (in my opinion) asking to be run down.

    Bike all you want. Just keep to the right so I can pass.

    The law is not, or at least should not be, about safety alone; rather, it’s supposed to balance safety with fairness. My civil right to get home unimpeded is at least the equal of your right to get your message heard*, and there are a lot more of me than of you.

    * Arguably CM’s only “message” is threat speech, which has no right to be heard at all.

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