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by Peter Moskos

October 7, 2009

Shut yer mouth, dude!

Why is it so hard for some people to just shut up?

Some people are using this video as anti-cop propaganda. I see an officer acting in an incredibly professional and even patient manner. He's doing his job. He follows the rules. He tells his name and badge number when asked.

A little skateboarder calls him a dick. To his face. Twice. He gets locked up. Legally. Good. The kid could have done two things to not get locked up (and I'm purposefully ignoring the skateboarding is a crime issue): 1) carry ID, 2) don't call a police officer doing his job a dick.

If the San Francisco Chronicle is to be believed, the officer has been assigned station duty while the matter is being investigated?! That's a crime. The officer did nothing wrong. Now that could have been me.


Anonymous said...

Good articulation of the so-called "kick"!

I can't count the number of times a perp is told to watch his head going in to the back of the patrol car and they just ignore that and go and hit their head anyway. Happens every time!

IrishPirate said...

I thought the cop handled himself ok here.

The breaking the arm like a twig comment was a teeny bit much, but all in all he acted professionally.

If the civilians in the video had acted respectfully this wouldn't have happened. Once the skateboarder called the cop a dick he could expect the "letter" of the law to be followed.

I hate to stereotype groups, except for drunken Irish Pirates of course, but this "kid" hits all the skateboarder stereotypes. "Dude".


Unknown said...

The officer did nothing wrong? This depends on whether you believe the witness or the cop on the issue of how much 'assistance' the kid needed to get in the car. From your point of view the cop is more believable. From my point of view the witness is more believable.

Ignoring the assist into the car, the cop was still being a dick, the kid was absolutely correct. Also we didn't see what happened before the video started, maybe the cop was provoked into being a dick earlier in the confrontation. But its never smart to point out that a cop is being a dick to his face (although not illegal)

This seems like Officer Rivieri 2.0 to me, the public doesn't mind if some of 'those' people are roughed up/threatened by the police, but they don't want to see their teenage non-violent kids roughed up/threatened by the police.

Also, I do love how the cop is going to show how powerful he is to the witness by citing all of the other kids. That will show that witness to not interfere in the future! Random strangers will receive tickets if you dare to question me!

PCM said...

I know there are obvious parallels to Officer Rivieri, but I don't think the cases are similar. Officer Schwab was acting professional and within the law. Officer Rivieri was having a very bad day.

Now apparently the good people of San Francisco have decided to make skateboarding a crime. And the good neighbors want that law enforced. So you're an officer who get a call for kids skateboarding and also see some very minor act of vandalism. You need to enforce the law, given the call.

You're prepared to give the kids a lecture and tell them to leave.

But then one of the kids calls you a dick. You give him a chance to back down but he insists on calling you a dick. I've seen cops be dicks. This doesn't seem to be one of the cases. What should the officer do? What would you do?

And officer has discretion to issue citations and hell yeah I would in this situation. I might also cite the kid under a city code for cursing in public. That's two tickets. And then when the kid doesn't have ID, I'd lock him up. You can't issue a ticket if the person doesn't have ID. So instead he goes to jail.

Given how I saw the officer behave, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt regarding the use of force given the resistance offered. I think both were minor.

Anonymous said...

It is not like the kid called him a dick out of a clear blue sky. The officer asked (and not in a nice way) and couldn't handle it when the man gave an honest answer. That is not the same as just calling someone a dick. Whether the LEO had grounds to arrest is far from clear. Did he see them skateboarding? Did he see the arrestee commit the alleged vandalism? With an infraction, that stuff matters. If swearing in public is an infraction why didn't the officer write himself a ticket? His swear was much louder. Then there was the false accusation of resisting arrest. Then there was the criminal threat to break the man's arm. Then there was the kick (yeah, I think there was a kick). Policemen are indeed dicks.

Irishpirate said...


I had to look up "Rivieri" to know what the hell you dicks were talking about.



In this video the cop doesn't strike me as being out of control or even all that angry. He strikes me as "annoyed". Which I can understand. I get annoyed when someone calls me "dude" in my everyday civilian life. Add "dick" and I'd be very annoyed. The SFPD officer seemed to have been willing to give the 22-23 year old "kid" a break until the kid started acting like a "jackass".

This is much ado about almost nothing. Seems the cop came into contact with a "hole" nest of jackasses.

The bystander saying "boo hoo" was classic.

PCM said...


(was he really 22? He looks 16.)

Unknown said...

I see your point, the normal human response to being called a dick is to react. A police officer has the ability to react with the authority of law. To me, that is a bit scary.

The officer does need to take some blame for taunting the kid. What response did he expect? "No sir I don't need an asprin. Whats bothering me sir? Nothing sir, you are a bright point in my day"

You think you are doing the guy a favor and he calls you a dick. Citing him for the things you were going to let him off the hook for seems reasonable. No threats, additional citations or argument needed.

Escalation to me seems petty, and in my perfect world I would hope that an officer would be above that. But I know that is a lot to ask.

Also, to be fair, I think there is a reason the video starts where it does and not earlier. And what ever that reason may be, I bet its not flattering to the kids.

This guy should not be even be given station duty for what was shown on the tape. I think what he did was wrong, but not badly wrong. A quick chat maybe about how taunting and then threatening to break a handcuffed kid's arm isn't the smartest thing to do, and arguing with a bystander probably has no good outcome either.

PCM said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

If the officer kicked the man he should be fired and lose his pension. I think he did kick the man.

PCM said...

If I were the officer and I got in trouble, I would go out with a line-of-duty toe injury. Go for sixty-six and two-thirds!

Irishpirate said...

I thought when the cop was on the radio I heard a birthdate involving 1986.

Maybe I'm wrong. I could watch the video again, but I'm heading out for a late night bike ride.

God loves cyclists and hates skateboarders. It says so in the Very New Testament. Book of IrishPirate: Chapter 422 Verse 511.

Anonymous said...

Smoke inhalation is another good one. Less risk than falling down the stairs.

PCM said...

But you see you get a toe injury from kicking someone (anyway, that was the joke).

McArrgh, here's to late night bike rides!

Anonymous said...

After the LEOs misrepresentation of the skatebparding law in San Francisco (it is only illegal in certain places, not categorically illegal), it is difficult to see why we should give Officer Schwab the benefit of the doubt about ANYTHING.

PCM said...

But dude, I bet it was illegal then and there.

Anonymous said...

did that look like a "business district" to you?

PCM said...

Beats me.

What's the law say?

Anonymous said...

It says that LEOs should not ask questions to which they do not want to hear an honest answer, it says that they should not issue an infraction unless they personally witnessed the infraction, it says that they should not threaten to use excessive force, it says that they should not kick handcuffed arrestees.

that is what the law says.

To answer more directly, no it wasn't a business district. It was daytime and there was zero traffic. Commin sense tells one that it was not a "business district," at least not by San Francisco standards. Maybe you never lived there. I did. For many years. Business districts in SF have actual traffic.

PCM said...

I mean the law regarding skateboarding.

I imagine the officer saw the guys skateboarding on the street or the sidewalk. I imagine one of those is against the law.

If it were not, that would certainly be relevant.

Why is it so hard to imagine that the officer saw kids skateboarding? Why is it so hard to imagine he can't leave until the the "problem" somebody called about is resolved?

Unknown said...

Because I follow these things too closely.. if a commenter on one of the news stories is to be believed...

San Francisco City and County law

a) Prohibits skateboarding on any city street at any time, on any sidewalk in any business district at any time, and on any non-business district sidewalk commencing 30 minutes after sunset and ending 30 minutes before sunrise (Traffic Code, Section 100)

b) Prohibits skateboarding "in or about any public transit station (including an outdoor high-level boarding platform), streetcar, cable car, motor coach, trolley coach or other public transit vehicle, including, but not limited to, those stations or vehicles operated by the Bay Area Rapid Transit District" (Traffic Code, Section 128)

c) Prohibits skateboarding in Yerba Buena Gardens, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Arboretum, Conservatory Valley, where it is posted as prohibited, and in South Beach Park or Rincon Park unless otherwise permitted (Park Code Sections 3.05 and 11.02 and Port Code Sections 2.4 and 7.2).

d) Requires skateboarders at skating facilities owned or operated by the City and County to wear helmets, kneepads, and elbow pads (Park Code Section 4.17).

Anonymous said...

Given his Billclintonesque definition of "resisting" and his Billclintonesque definition of "not kicking," and his Billclintonesque interpretation of the scope of SF's antiskateboarding law, I am afraid that you will have to forgive me if I question whether he "saw" the man actually skateboarding (as opposed to holding a skateboard).

Anonymous said...

I guess it will be interesting to see whether a BUSINESSPERSON called or whetherg a RESIDENTIAL person called.

PCM said...

If they are skateboarding in the street (and they were), it doesn't matter what kind of neighborhood it is.

Anonymous said...

How do you know they were skateboarding in the street. Certainly the video did not show that. More specifacally, how do you know that the arrestee (as opposed to the others) was skateboarding in the street.*

At ant rate, if we had a transcript of the video up, it would be clear to all that the arresting officer had no idea what the actual law is (or else he lied about it).


* assuming this was a "business district," which it does not appear to be.

Anonymous said...

amd, let's be clear: the LEO said that it was categorically illegal to skateboard in San Francisco. He was clearly wrong about that. If he doesn't know the law, why should he NOT be fired?

Irishpirate said...

Dude or dudes,

I don't expect cops to know all the laws of a jurisdiction. There are likely thousands or tens of thousands of laws in any jurisdiction.

If a cop gets one wrong or misspeaks he should be fired? I'm sorry. I mean "LEO". SHEEEEEET.

I don't expect cops to be perfect. If we want perfect cops we better develop some RoboCops.

The cop in question didn't act "perfectly", but I don't see his behavior as being particularly egregious. He was sarcastic and annoyed. As for kicking the "kid" I suspect it was to done to get the "kid" into the car without banging his head. I'm guessing the "kid" has already suffered numerous head injuries in his young life.

I suspect we have a pissed off skateboarder and/or cop hater posting.

I'm perfectly willing to criticize a cop who has made a mistake or committed a criminal act.

I thought the cop in the Professor Gates incident exercised bad judgment in arresting the good Professor. That involved an older man in his own house coming home from a trip.

This involves a young "dude" likely acting like a hyperactive chimp on wheels and skating around like a general PITA.

PITA=Pain in the Ass.

Now I don't know exactly what happened.

What happened prior to the video? Was the video selectively edited?

I'm more than willing to give this cop the benefit of the doubt on this one until I see something more egregious.

There are plenty of asshole cops out there. There are plenty of good cops who have bad days. On this day and in this incident I don't see the cop in question doing anything seriously wrong.

The breaking the arm like a twig comment was a bit much, but the "kid" and the others there were acting like idiots. Now if the cop had broken the arm I'd be singing a different tune.

Again, I hate skateboarders so I'm not exactly objective. Setting up a skate ramp over the Grand Canyon would seem like a good economic stimulus for President Obama to consider.

There are people out there who are "cop haters". No matter what "the police" or an individual cop does they will criticize it.

There are people out there who are "cop apologists". No matter what "the police" or an individual cop does they will support it.

I TRY to judge every cop and incident individually. As I would want to be judged.

Anonymous said...

Maybe a policeman doesn't need to know every law in his jurisdiction, but:

1. He needs to know the skateboard law if his departmnt has the time to send him out on skateboarding calls.

2. If he gets sent out on a skateboarding call, but he doesn't really know what the skateboarding law is, then he needs to either: (i) find out the law before citing (eg, on his radio from someone who knows); or (ii) just not cite that day and take it as a lesson to learn that law.

3. Point 2 X100 if the LEO is going to arrest (as opposed to just cite) on the skateboarding law.


While the policeman did many things wrong here, let's not let this obscure the main thing he did wrong:

a false allegation of resisting arrest. just yell "stop resisting." it is the oldest trick in the policeman's book. policeman categorically refuse to acknowledge that that happens, even where it is on video as in this case or the Oscar Grant III case.

Here the false allegation of resisting was only used to justify a threat of physical harm, instead of a bullet in the lung, but the moral turpitude it takes to falsely accuse someone of resisting is much worse turpitude than anything skateboarders do.

Policemen just don't get this. To a man. No exceptions.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and about the "hyperactive chimps" comment and the lecture. Let's be clear on what Officer Schwab was not chiding Zach Stow about:

he was not chiding him about skateboarding in a location where that activity might (or might not) have been illegal

he was not chiding Mr. Stow for taking a bladed stance

He was not chiding Mr. Stow for running away

he was not chiding Mr. Stow for pulling up a grate (which Mr. Stow may or may not have done)

he was not chiding Mr. Stow for causing danger to pedestrians (we do see a couple of pedestrians late in the vid, but the place looks pretty deserted for SF)

he was not chiding Mr. Stow for playing on a storm grate that someone else pulled up (which Mr. Stow may or may not have been doing)

He was not chiding Mr. Stow for appearing drunk.

He was not chiding Mr. Stow for acting like a hyperactive chimp.

He was not chiding Mr. Stow for putting his hands in his pocket or bhind his back or in his mouth.

NOW, at this point, you are probably thinking, gee, ANONYMOUS, there are an awful lot of things he was not chiding Mr. Stow for, but what was he chiding Mr. Stow for?

wait for it . . .

sitting still on the curb with his head in his hands.

and (if one is not a policeman) then one thinks: but, gee, ANONYMOUS, isn't that pretty much exctly what he should have been doing? acting submissive. acting like he was not going to dash off (I actually think he could have beaten Officer Schwab in a footrace). Not acting defiant. not maddogging. clearly trying to keep his emotions in check.

So, for whatever reason, Officr Schwab decides to get things going by asking sarcastic question aimed at criticizing the exact behaviors he should be encouraging. Correction: Officer Scwab asked two sarcastic questions, specifically one directed at the bystanders and one directed at Mr. Stow. Of Mr. Stow, Officer Schwab wanted to know if he had a headache. Of the bystanders (who also to their great credit were not running or acting like they would), he wanted to know if they had any drugs for the headache.

So what happened next?

The bystanders answered quickly, politely and responsively (more forthcoming than they should have been, really), and Mr. Stow answered quickly, in a clear voice and without any show of hostility. Mr. Stow also took his head out of his hands because, one would have assumed based on Officer Schwab's question that Officer Schwab wanted him to do that. IOW, suspect was showing compliance.

So, Officer Schwab sees that he is dealing with suspects who are, or have at least becaome, forthcoming and compliant. So at this point he breaks into a helpful lecture about where the men can skateboard and where the men cannot skateboard -- NOT!

No, that ain't the way Officer Scwab rolls. He is going to keep laying into Mr. Stow for having the audacity to show disrespect in the form of sitting still and quiet with his hands visible. You simply don't do that at Officer Stow's crime scene -- especially when it is getting toward the end of th productivity eval period.

So Officer Scwab continues to question Mr. Stow abot exactly why his head was in his hands. He tries to use this compliant behavior as a lever to get Mr. Stow to confess to a crime.

At this point Stow decides to cut the nonsense and say what is really happening, how Officer Schwab is behaving, how all the policemen who behave like Officer Schwab are behaving and continue to behave. But Officer Schwab didn't want the truth. Officer Scwab could not handle the truth . . . then he started in with the lies and the kicking.

Irishpirate said...

I see the hyperactive chimp known who posted at 9:57 AM took his medication for ADD this morning.

This is much ado about little.

Now can we get that skate ramp into the Grand Canyon thing on line?

I think everything that can reasonably be said about this incident has been said on both sides of the issue.

Now if you will excuse me it's time for my morning caffeine. I'm old and I need legal drugs to act like a hyperactive chimp.

Unknown said...

First and foremost, to Irishpirate, get over yourself. You're old and crotchety and you think that gives you carte blanche to hate entire groups of people, but it doesn't. You're just as ignorant and prejudiced as all the skateboarders who hate cops. You get annoyed when someone calls you dude? So clearly you're about 80 with the maturity level of a 12 year old. 'Dude' has been part of the American, hell, the global lexicon for more than two decades now. It isn't going away any time soon. Your best bet would be to slow down on the legal stimulants and take a deep, calming breath with your Centrum Silver in the morning.

Anonymous at 9:57 hit the nail on the head. The issue of whether or not the kids were breaking laws is elementary at this point. The court system will figure that out (or not). The social interactions going on in this video go to prove, however, how petty and irresponsible LEO can be.

I understand PCM's take on the video. As an LEO himself, he sees an officer acting professionally and with restraint. Hell, if he got called a 'dick' by some skateboarder punk he'd probably get a case of the old steam-shooting-out-of-his-ears and break out some old school, Eastern District hand-to-hand. Or maybe not. Don't know him personally, haven't read his book (though it seems interesting enough).

My question is, why does being called a 'dick' get this guy so worked up. He's a grown ass man, I assume he's been called names before, probably much worse. It certainly didn't warrant arresting a peaceful, compliant person, let alone the absolutely unneeded threat to break his arm coupled with the token "stop resisting" line. Is this really a good use of his time, of taxpayer dollars?

Didn't see the 'kick' so I can't comment, but it seems like LEO have a hard time understanding that people don't want to be arrested, don't want to be put into the back of cop cars with their hands bound behind their back. Even the most peaceful people will instinctively stiffen up. To say nothing of the reduced balance and dexterity that comes with having your hands chained behind you. Why is that so hard to understand? Why does that make you want to cause them more physical pain?

I understand police departments have rules and standards and often those rules and standards fly in the face of common sense and cost efficiency, but there has got to be something better for this officer to do than handcuff peaceful civilians who (maybe) broke minor laws whose only purpose is to satisfy people like Irishpirate.

Slow day? End of the month? I don't know, but it seems like he could of approached these kids, explained the law to them, told them to get lost and went about his day protecting and serving. Instead, he was sarcastic and antagonizing (read: was a dick), got called on it, and created a perfect opportunity to 'get his cop on', which he did, and this video shows that.

Whether its Officer Schwab or Officer Reviera, the fact remains the same: having a bad day, being annoyed, getting called names, these things suck and they happen to everyone. But LEO, above everyone else in society, should be mentally equipped to do their job, justly and safely, without causing undue harm or tension to anyone, themselves included, despite these things.

Irishpirate said...


I'm not nearly 80 and I have the maturity level of a 15 year old.

Unfortunately, I don't have the tumescence of a 15 year old. Which probably explains my ill mood.

Anonymous said...

speking of the old "stop resisting" gambit:


score one for the Baltimore p.d.

campbell said...

There's always that guy who just seems hellbent on screwing up his chance for a verbal resolution. Had one myself tonight. One of the chronic drunks in my beat was plastered and had already fallen a couple times. Now this can be fixed by having a friend pick him up, or carting him off on an arrest for public intox. When I approached him, he could have had a normal conversation and told me a friend would pick him up soon. He chose to tell me to go fuck myself. His problem got resolved with an arrest.

Anonymous said...

Campbell: what did you say to him prior to him swearing at you?

Maybe (not definitely, but maybe) the problem is you.

Anonymous said...

If this professional police conduct, we're all in trouble. No great harm done, this incident really isn't a big deal, but seems to me the officer wasn't satisfied with dominating the kids, he had to humiliate them as well.

Great community relations, officer.

Anonymous said...

And that is why all cops are bad (even our host here). Cops will always cover cops. There is no such thing as a good cop.

And while the cop may not like it, the kid has a 1st Amendment right to call him anything. If he suffers for having done so, the cop is not defending the Constitution. If I call anyone on the street a dick, what legal recourse do they have? (Answer: none) The cop isn't above the law.

BTW: I believe it is totally legal to defend yourself against an illegal arrest with deadly force. Take from that what you will.

Anonymous said...

Well, the arrest was not illegal. The cop had discretion to arrest or warn and admonish. Since the kid used his first amendment right to free speech the cop decided to excercise his discretion in making an arrest.

Anonymous said...

We have no idea whether the arrest was legal or not. That depends upon what Zach Stow did or didn't do and also upon what the SF codes mean.

Since Officer Schwab had a completely wrong idea of what the SF skateboarding law actually said, we can't really trust his judgment about anything, including whether Zach Stow actually violated any laws as written.

campbell said...

Here's the actual code from the city site.

(a) Riding on Sidewalks.
(1) To ride a NUV upon any sidewalk in any business district within the City;
(2) To ride a NUV upon any sidewalk within the City between the period commencing 1/2-hour after sunset and 1/2-hour before sunrise; or
(b) Riding in the Roadway. While riding a NUV in the roadway:
(1) To ride a NUV upon any street in any business district within the City;
(2) To fail to yield the right-of-way to any person on foot crossing the street;
(3) To fail to yield the right-of-way to any person on foot approaching from any sidewalk, within any marked or unmarked crosswalk, or to fail to yield to any bicyclist or motor vehicle approaching on the street;
(4) To travel against the direction of traffic;
(c) General Prohibitions. While operating a NUV:
(1) To carry any object that obstructs or impairs the rider's vision in any direction.
(2) To wear any type of audio headphones, headsets or earplugs.
(3) To operate an NUV in a reckless manner that endangers the safety of people or property.

Anonymous said...

Don't tell us. we've read it as you can see by reading the discussion above. email it to Officer Noel Schwab of the SFPD. He is the one that needs to learn it.

Anonymous said...

Respect my authority

another power hungry, roided-cop

Corey said...

I'm coming to this party a little late.

(1) I agree with the commenters who assert that Schwab unnecessarily escalated by the initial comments (at least the initial comments caught on the hidden camera); "what, are you ashamed of yourself?"

(2) It was still a legitimate arrest; (not sure that it's a chargable arrest, but that doesn't concern Schwab). Everyone commenting here (especially, those who want to take the position that this guy was a jack booted thug) should read Peter's book. The patrol officer's primary concern is to be able to assert his or her control over any situation in his or her sector. Why? Because that's his (or her) job. Egon Bittner defined the patrol officer as the agent of the state who is called when-something-must-be-done-right-now-or-else. While this situation appeared to be benign, the patrol officer needs to ensure that everyone understands that when push comes to shove, he must win. Why? Because next time it might not be benign. Again, read PCM's Cop in the Hood (Chapter 6 in particular) for a fairly sophisticated analysis of this (written from a perspective that seems more libertarian than law and order). I'm not saying I like it in this case; but I know that where I live, if something bad is happening, I want the police to be able to control the situation. You can't have one without the other, folks.

(3) It wasn't on the tape, but I assume that the bystander started giving him shit about arresting the one kid (who called him a dick) and letting the others go: abuse of discretion! abuse of discretion! So, he cited everyone. Assuming for a second that he was correct and that it was illegal to ride skateboards where the kids were riding, then the bystander forced his hand.

I am increasingly coming to the opinion that more police-citizen interactions should be video taped. It would be nice to see the full exchange here without the editing (obviously done by someone wishing to create an image of an power hungry jerk cop). It would be useful to see the full chain of events.

Yael said...

The officer's main mistake is that he shouldn't have engaged the bystanders in such a lengthy dialogue. You can't explain logic and reason to an illogical and unreasonable person. It's like talking to a wall. Why waste your breath?

Shakespeare said brevity is the soul of wit. I'd argue it's should also be the rule of thumb when dealing with mouthy bystanders such as these.

If I was the office, I'd have simply replied that my initial intent was simply to administer a verbal warning to the suspects. However, when it became clear to me that a verbal warning would not suffice in resolving the situation, I took the next step, which was placing the suspect under arrest. (or issuing a citation or whatever the protocol was) The suspect's behavior dictated my actions.

But yeah, the officer did let his ego show through a little bit, especially what with the breaking the arm like a twig comment. Just a little bit.