WASHINGTON (CN) – District of Columbia police officers intentionally run their squad cars into black motorcyclists, then confiscate the bikes and sell them, eight African Americans claim in a federal class action.
Lead plaintiff Terry Thedale Cain claims Metropolitan Police Department officers intentionally hit young, mostly male, black bikers in poor areas of the city with their cruisers, without regard for their constitutional rights, safety or lives.
The class claims the District of Columbia and MPD supervisors condone and tacitly encourage the practice to make money off the confiscated bikes.
Cain and his co-plaintiffs seek to represent all young black motorcyclists driving small motorbikes or all-terrain vehicles of 250 cubic centimeters or less. They estimate the class to be in the hundreds, based on declarations submitted by victims.
“The MPD has engaged in a practice of targeting young black bikers with deadly force by intentionally striking motorbikes driven by young black bikers, predominantly males, with MPD cruisers,” the complaint states.
“The young black bikers invariably run from the scene after they have been hit by MPD cruisers if they can’t get away on their bikes, and leave their bikes at the scene of the collision.
“The MPD officers take these motorbikes into custody. Ultimately these motorbikes are either confiscated by individual police officers or sold by the MPD and/or by D.C.’s Department of Public Works, thus creating a revenue stream for the District of Columbia. Most bikers would not give up their bikes voluntarily to the police so that it is a fair conclusion that the vast majority of motorbikes confiscated by the MPD or claimed as abandoned property are motorbikes that come from bikers that have been hit off their bikes by MPD cruisers.
“This unconstitutional act of targeting an insular minority of young black motorbike drivers with deadly force is a discriminatory act of racial and class profiling that is inherently unconstitutional and is exacerbated by the fact that the respective bikers are being targeted intentionally with deadly force that can result in serious injury or death.”
Cain claims the police department should have known about the practice since at least 2009 because of a lawsuit filed then.
“The MPD and DC knew or should have known that such a practice is going on by the large accumulation of abandoned motorbikes that occur after the police attempt to apprehend the said bikers,” the complaint states.
“One of the motivations that the police had to continue this practice of targeting said bikers is that DC and its officers sell these bikes, which benefits DC, the MPD and the individual officers where there is little to no accountability regarding the sale of these bikes.”
Cain claims the police department and the District of Columbia failed to train or sanction officers, and covered up their misconduct.
“While this dangerous practice of targeting young black males continues unabated, none of the MPD officers are sanctioned for their violations of civil rights and are often promoted to higher levels of the MPD,” the lawsuit states. “Furthermore, whenever infractions of police misconduct regarding knocking a biker off a bike with a cruiser are exposed to public scrutiny, the MPD close ranks and place the errant officer behind the veil of the blue wall of silence and said MPD officers cover for their errant officers by covering up their misdeeds.”
The class claims the officers caused them bodily injuries, pain and suffering, disability, emotional distress and damaged their bikes, among other things.
They seek class certification and $100 million in compensatory and punitive damages for constitutional violations, negligence, assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
They are represented by David Shurtz of Arlington, Va.
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