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by Peter Moskos

August 11, 2016

The DOJ is wrong (3): That damn kid on a dirt bike in 2007

Picture a seven-year-old on a bike. From pp. 86-87 of the report:
Allegations of BPD’s unreasonable use of force against juveniles are not new. BPD has a history of problematic encounters with youth that pre-date the period of our review. For example, in 2007, officers arrested a seven-year old child for sitting on a dirt bike during an initiative to confiscate dirt bikes.
It became a minor scandal: A cop grabbed a 7-year-old off his bike for no reason right in front of his mom! Well that's how the false narrative grew. The paper somehow left off the seemingly important detail that it was a motorized bike. That kind of matters, doesn't it?

Long story short: 7-year-old is rolling down the street on a illegal motorized ATV. The keys are in the bike. Yes, that's what (some) 7-year-olds in Baltimore ride motor bikes with with parental encouragement. A cop sees what is going on and about to happen and does, well, what mom should have done. He takes the kid off the bike. Nobody is hurt. But mom-of-the-year files a complaint against the officer saying police assault her kid. She then (naturally) files a lawsuit for money. But the city (and this isn't natural) doesn't settle. The case goes to court, and the city wins hands-down.

I wrote about this in 2008:
Police had the nerve to stop the 7-year-old from driving an A.T.V. down the street. He wasn't "riding," says the mom; the motor was off. He was just "rolling down the street." The kid was 7. On a motorized ATV that can start with a key. So the police do their job and take the kid off the bike.
People blamed about "zero-tolerance" policing, by the way.

This was bad parenting and good policing. It should not be Exhibit A in "unreasonable use of force against juveniles." See, back then this case bothered me because it was still kind of rare in 2007 for a cop to be attacked for doing the right thing . And I bet those who wrote this report make their kids wear a helmet before they can even get on a pedal bike.



Apparently you are unaware that "dirt bike" by definition and common useage is an off-road motorcycle. Therefore you can not fault anyone for failing to specify that a dirt bike has a motor.

Peter Moskos said...

Oh, no, you did not just come to my blog and start your very first post ever here with "apparently you are unaware...." Oh, I'm fucking aware you motherfucker. And I'm faulting you, you name-in-all-cap motherfucker.

That is not how this blog works.

Yeah, I know damn well what a "dirt bike" is. I know bikes pretty well. And the meaning on the mountain trails of Garrett County is very different than the meaning of a BMX/dirt bike (also known as a "dirt bike").

And the difference a motor. And if a story quotes a mom saying something like, "that cop dragged my seven-year-old off his bike while he was riding down the sidewalk," that story had better mention somewhere that the dirt bike is question is not a Huffy but a motorcycle or ATV. It didn't. And people didn't know. So yes, in that context or a seven-year-old riding a bike, I damn well do fault people for not specifying that that dirt bike has a motor.


Technically, an ATV and a off-road motorcycle are not synonymous. An ATV will always have 3 or 4 wheels. A motorcycle generally has two, but some trikes have three but they are not off-road.

Enjoy your blog.


Apparently law abiding black people were often stopped for no reason when driving (and walking). Would this not explain why the black lady you stopped for headlights off was so irate?

In a culture where "driving while black" is a reason to get stopped, it is not surprising that a counter-culture of unregistered and unlicensed cheap dirt bikes and ATV's flourish.