Sunday, July 13, 2008

Chief Kerlikowske on Naked Bike Riders

Interesting article in the Stranger SLOG giving some insight on police reaction to nude cyclists. It talks about the recent Gay Pride event and the expectation of nude cyclists there. The comments apply equally to the just completed WNBR held this Saturday . . . with minor problems.

Chief Kerlikowske on Naked Bike Riders

posted by on June 20 at 16:23 PM

J. Steve Mayo’s idea of a rollicking Gay Pride Parade is painting his nude body and cycling through the streets of downtown. That was cool with pride parade organizers, who queued about 20 bare bicyclists in the Body Pride Ride—headed by Mayo—in slot #81 for the parade on June 29. But Mayo got chills when he heard police might arrest him for violating Washington’s indecent exposure law, which bans nudity that is “likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm.”

“A person naked and painted on a bike while cheering is not something sexual and it’s not patently offensive in any way,” says Mayo.

On Wednesday, pride parade attorney David Coffman informed Mayo that—according to one of the parade organizers—an SPD officer threatened to arrest the cyclists if there was a complaint, and the SPD would take parade organizer to the SPD’s West Precinct. Coffman tried to verify that claim, but SPD Deputy Chief Nicholas Metz told him that Seattle’s nude cycling-policy hadn’t changed. And he sent Coffman this letter from Chief Gil Kerlikowske:

Police Chief Kerlikowske's Response to a query
Click the image for a larger, more readable image

In 1998, SPD officers arrested two naked cyclists in the Fremont Solstice Parade. However, the city attorney declined to prosecute the pair because they hadn’t violated the indecent exposure law cited in the chief’s letter. But this is the first time the naked pride riders, who have ridden in the Capitol Hill pride events, have threatened to shake their junk in the downtown parade.

Had an SPD officer claimed police would bust the cyclist and take a parade organizer to the police station? “It’s was a non-denial denial” from the deputy chief, says Coffman. When I called, police flatly denied any officer had made that threat.

How will it all shake out? “[Police] will not engage anyone who is publicly nude unless someone makes a complaint,” says Coffman. “That person who makes a complaint has to be present at event and be willing to testify in court,” he says. The nude contingent is still scheduled to ride in the parade, somewhere behind Governor Christine Gregoire, who is expected to wear clothes.

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