COP “I’ll break your arm like a twig”

Illegal to skateboard in San Francisco?


Never mind that this cops understanding of the law is way outdated, try 6 years old. It is a matter of fact, Skateboarding is allowed in all those places he claims it is not. Read for yourself, the only provision in the county code when Skating isn’t allowed:

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)”

Snipped from the Supes Legislative analysts memo from 2003.

Skateboarding is only illegal at NIGHT. This kid looks to be right, this cop is acting like a fucking dick. I mean fer chrissakes we even have a SF Skateboarding Task Force (PDF)!

36 Comments so far

  1. Viss (unregistered) on September 30th, 2009 @ 4:40 pm

    We’re supposed to depend on these guys for security
    “To protect and serve”

  2. Tara Tiger Brown (tarabrown) on September 30th, 2009 @ 4:42 pm

    I bet nothing will happen to that ASSHOLE cop. And yes, you are a bad guy for touching a kid that never once resisted.

  3. Eugenia (unregistered) on September 30th, 2009 @ 4:47 pm

    The way I read the above is that skateboarding IS prohibited at any time, except in non-business districts where it’s only prohibited at night. So the question really is: WHERE did the incident happen?

  4. Burns! (burns) on September 30th, 2009 @ 5:02 pm

    Sadly, I’m thinking Officer Schwab (#2099) probably gets either desk duty or paid leave while this is investigated. If it comes before a board, he may get some suspension days, but as long as his union insurance is paid up, that will cover any lost wages; basically a paid vacation. If he’s got an off-duty job that he can work while on suspension, he’ll actually make double the money. The worst part is that while he should be learning a lesson from the disciplinary action, he’ll probably come out of it feeling more animosity toward the public for the inconvenience.

  5. Richard Ault (richard) on September 30th, 2009 @ 5:07 pm

    Good point, although it’s not easy to find how the business districts are drawn. Looks like they are around 9th street, kinda close to SOMA.

    Here is a list that shows there are very few actual “business” districts, some commercial and a lot of mixed use. Rare is the neighborhood in this town that isn’t host to some kind of business.

    Also found this but can’t make out much: (PDF)

  6. toddx on September 30th, 2009 @ 6:23 pm

    Eugenia, I think you’re right. And I also think it’s okay for our city’s police officers to enforce the law once in a while. I’m all for freedom, but as the officer said, a complaint was called in by a resident. I’m guessing that almost no one reading this lives in this area, so we’re approaching it second-hand.

    Tara, are you sure the kid didn’t resist? The videographer didn’t happen to catch that part and/or edited it out.

    I think it’s reasonable for a society to have boundaries. We call them laws. And, when people stray outside those boundaries, they are restricted. This could be a valuable lesson for our skateboarding friend here.

    Or, he’ll just develop a (more) intense hatred and disrespect for authority figures and soon start tagging my apartment building. I can’t wait for that. (dialing 911)

  7. Denver (unregistered) on September 30th, 2009 @ 6:58 pm

    “Prohibits skateboarding on any city street at any time, ” seems pretty clear to me. And calling an officer a vulgarity can definitely be construed as a form of resistance. However the whole thing gets out of hand based on something we can’t see in the video so it’s all pointless.

  8. Zuhaib (unregistered) on September 30th, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

    Humm, The cop here was taking it a bit too far. No point telling the guy he is going to break his arm, but I guess he got pissed after calling him a dick. Would have been better had he stuck to just a name calling fight but the cop took it too far threatening the guy. He should not lose his job but he does need to be reminded of the law and kept an eye on.

    But, some of these skateboarders are a bit out of hand and I DO want to see SFPD enforcing rules more about the stunts they pull. I live on a hill and if I come home early its not uncommon to see a guy with a camera at the top of the hill filming some guy doing stupids tricks going down my steep hill. And I bet if these guys damage a car they are just going to run and leave the owner with the bill, or worst hurt themselves.
    And just a few days ago on Geneva street before 11am some idiots where filming some skateboarder trying to cross the street with traffic.

    I have no problem with kids doing it for fun, i did it growing up a bit (never did it well), but some of these people are not kids and are doing it for show and the camera.

  9. Burns! (burns) on September 30th, 2009 @ 7:07 pm

    @Denver: Directing vulgar language can be construed as resistance? Perhaps, but police officers are trained to meet force with appropriate force. The whole thing got out of hand at the moment that the officer got his feelings hurt by a guy who called him a bad name. That was the point at which he began using excessive force (and threats) in handcuffing the verbal offender.

  10. Skater (unregistered) on September 30th, 2009 @ 7:49 pm

    The video cuts in, so it’s hard to see why the officer was interacting with them. It’s also pretty clear that the kid KNOWS he shouldn’t be calling him a ‘fucking dick.’

    If a angry teenager called any of us a ‘fucking dick’ we would react.
    And as people mention above, you can’t see him kick the kid.

    I’ve been a skater for 20 years and skate IN San Francisco and somehow I feel like this cop is getting a bad rap. The citizens here aren’t helping and look to be some sort of PC police. It’s a tough call.

    I guess it seems to me that with a little more respect these guys would have just been let off. If they were skating in front of my house and they called me a ‘fucking dick’…it’s just a respect issue.

  11. Mogwai (unregistered) on September 30th, 2009 @ 10:52 pm

    @Denver – I’d suggest reading the entire text of the excerpt before commenting. Yes, the first line does say “Prohibits skateboarding on any city street at any time, on any sidewalk in any business district at any time” but if you read the next sentence it also clearly states that it commences 30 minutes after sunset and ends 30 minutes before sunrise.

    As for the incident itself I’m torn. The cop is definitely getting butt hurt about being called a name and is abusing his authority but the skater kid was also pretty stupid to be shooting off his mouth and the video footage is incomplete so who knows what took place before the video starts, what’s considered a kick, and to what degree the kid resisted getting into the car.

  12. ken_e (unregistered) on October 1st, 2009 @ 1:09 am

    cops are pricks

  13. Burns! (burns) on October 1st, 2009 @ 1:29 am

    @ken_e: All of them? Really? I hope you don’t truly believe that. I agree that from what I’ve seen in this video this particular cop may have some issues to be dealt with, but I certainly wouldn’t stereotype all cops as pricks. Nor would I use the video evidence to stereotype all skaters as disrespectful, mouthy assholes (though the ones in the video most certainly are.)

    It’s attitudes like “cops are pricks” that cause police officers to feel like they’re on the defensive from the get-go, much like the officer in the video. I hate to sound sort of Pollyanna and “can’t we all just get along,” but if you began from a position of appreciation and offered a modicum of respect to men & women who have a difficult job to do, perhaps they would return that positive attitude in dealing with you.

    No one is without fault in this particular situation, but where does it end and with whom does it begin? If you start with the attitude of “cops are pricks,” what motivation does any cop have to be anything but? That’s like approaching someone with “Fuck you,” then expecting them to have a positive attitude and help you. Not very likely.

  14. Dave (unregistered) on October 1st, 2009 @ 1:13 pm

    When I was a kid we did all of this, except when the cops showed up we were respectful and moved on. The kid escalated the thing from the start and the crowd egged it on. Cops aren’t all bright, but they do an important job and I’d rather they were looking for shooting suspects than being harassed by a bunch of punk kids just looking to get some youtube footage.

  15. Jackson (unregistered) on October 1st, 2009 @ 9:27 pm

    kid disrespecting a police officer stupid move.
    end of story

  16. Tim (unregistered) on October 1st, 2009 @ 9:45 pm

    I’m not always wild about cops, but to paraphrase what Donna Brazile said after the Gates incident in Cambridge, when a cop stops you, just put your head down andkeep your mouth shut. One of the first things they teach new cops is that they have to take control of situations (for good reasons. See: Barney Fife). Letting kids mouth off like that is a challenge to that control. No halfway decent cop is going to leave that unanswered. Having said that, the cop could have been more artful about things.

    Apparently you are not a lawyer or a cop, so you might want to read the traffic code one more time slowly. The cop was probably right about those kids being in violation. The only instance where the law specifically does not outlaw skateboarding on public streets or sidewalks is on non-business district sidewalks during the daylight hours, with the 30 minute thingy. The code has three clauses, to paraphrase: 1) No Skateboarding on the street EVER; 2)No Skateboarding on business district side walks EVER; 3) You can skate on NON business district SIDEWALKS from 30 min after sunup to 30 min before sundown. The three clauses are independent, and the daylight part only applies to the third clause.

    So here’s what’s going to happen: the cop is going to be told not to get into verbal matches with onlookers because it looks bad, he will get teased by his fellow policemen, and he will never, ever cut a skateboarder some slack. They will all be getting tickets in the future, no mouthing off required. And if SF skateboarders heed your “legal” opinion, I’m sure there will be plenty of tickets given.

  17. Skateboarders and Police Clash in San Francisco | The New Paper Press (pingback) on October 1st, 2009 @ 10:01 pm

    […] which the sergeant said is standard procedure.” Though, San Francisco Metblogs says the officer might have misunderstood the current law, citing the Supes Legislative Analysts Memo from 2003: San Francisco City and County […]

  18. darran (unregistered) on October 1st, 2009 @ 11:39 pm

    Fact. The US Supreme Court has ruled that cursing is a form of protected free speech. Fact. It is unwise to do it to a cop but it is not illegal in any state.

  19. San Francisco police officer arresting skateboarder: « I’ll break your arm like a fckng twig. » | Lick My Chip ! (pingback) on October 2nd, 2009 @ 3:00 am

    […] calls the officer a « fckng dck. » Over at metblogs SF, Richard Ault says the officer’s understanding of SF skateboarding codes is wrong. An article about the incident is here at the SF Chronicle. My two cents, as someone who is neither […]

  20. Robert in SF (unregistered) on October 2nd, 2009 @ 5:21 am

    @Tim: You said, 3) You can skate on NON business district SIDEWALKS from 30 min after sunup to 30 min before sundown.

    But I believe the correct reading for the allowed time-frame is basically you can skate until 30 minutes PAST sunset, and start upagain 30 minutes *before* sunrise. The prohibition is what is spelled out so the prohibition starts 30 minutes after and releases, as it were, 30 minutes before.

    The cop was cutting them a break, he got called a dick, and he arrested one to make a point. That’s all reasonable, and to be honest, admirable. He was being a nice guy from the looks of the video, until he lost his cool and twisted the guys arm immediately.

    The force he used was excessive, immediately twisting the guys arm behind him while he picks the kid up from a crouching/squatting position, was excessive. And the charge from the passerby about kicking the kid isn’t unbelievable, he even admits it. But to think he had to kick the kid to get him into the back of the car is unreasonable. The kid probably has never been arrested before and forced into the back of a car and wasn’t that dexterous…go figure he might have some trouble. Especially with a pained arm from having it twisted roughly behind him right from the start.

    So, he started out good, then let his emotions get the best of him.

    Sure a police office has to take control and establish dominance immediately to avoid a “Kids”-movie like moment of getting ganged up on, since he knows nothing about these kids at all. They could be total psychos, so he has to err on the side of caution. But once he decides to arrest the kid, he takes the physical force too far.

    But to those who say “all of you would have gotten upset if called you a dick!”, I say “Bullsh!+”. The cop’s an adult, these are kids….anyone else on here who has graduated elementary school should be able to take an insult (and don’t cry “verbal assault”, that’s asinine in this incident) without losing their temper and retaliating with this level of inappropriate force.

    I don’t think anything will come of this officially. The parents are the ones who will have to raise a complaint, and in all likelihood, it’s the kid who will get the lecture and warning…the police officer might get a verbal warning, or whatever passes for the first stage “Hey watch it!” from the bosses.

  21. Harry Callahan (unregistered) on October 2nd, 2009 @ 5:29 am

    I know what you’re thinking — Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But, that being a skateboard, most powerful weapon in the world and could snap your arm clean off – like a twig, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

  22. Jerry Garciaa (unregistered) on October 2nd, 2009 @ 9:01 am

    That cop was a dick. With all the evils in this town, spending the time and energy that goes into booking the 15 year old kid is a waste of our tax dollars!!

  23. librul (unregistered) on October 2nd, 2009 @ 9:17 am

    I’m not sure what country you guys are living in but calling an officer a dick is not a crime. In fact, the kid was just honestly answering a question by the officer. Truth is , this is the problem with cops. They think they are above everyone. Sorry police state lovers but the job of cops is not to teach kids lessons, it is to enforce the law. What this video demonstrates clearly is the cops often abuse the law to fit there needs. He at one point declares that he was now “forced” to follow the law where previously he was giving the kids a break (by not enforcing the law?) Should he not always be following the law. Do your job shithead! Unfortunately, and everyone know this, MOST police officer act just like this guy. They are bullies in uniform, which is why they became cops. What it all comes down to is….do you feel safer now that this criminal skateboarder is off the streets? Was it a good use of taxpayer dollar to prosecute this kid? In the end, NOTHING will happen to this officer and he know it. Which is why he feels free to act like a fucking dick!

  24. nef (unregistered) on October 2nd, 2009 @ 10:40 am

    I interpret the above quoted section of the traffic code as follows:

    It is prohibited to skateboard on all streets everywere at any time.
    It is prohibited to skateboard on all sidewalks in business districts at any time.
    It is prohibited to skateboard on all sidewalks in non-business districts but only when it is dark. (it is not completely dark until 30 minutes after sunset, nor 30 minutes before sunrise)

    It doesn’t look like a business district and it is definitely not dark. The question that remains is “did they skate on the streets or on the sidewalks?”.

    From what I hear in the clip they were skating on the streets. Ergo–they broke the law.

    IMHO the officer overreacted–there was no need to make an arrest and the threat to break the kid’s arm was uncalled for. Maybe he just got an overdose of adrenaline and/or testosterone, or maybe he just felt an urge to show who really was in charge. However, the officer had the law on his side and he could have arrested them all for skateboarding in the street.

    I actually believe the officer’s explanation of the accused “kick”. It is a more secure way to use a foot to gently shove a suspect into the backseat of a car instead of stooping to use your hands–especially when there’s a potentially hostile crowd approaching.

    But hey, what do I know? I’m Swedish. :) (and thereby you have my disclaimer if I might have made any errors concerning grammar or spelling)

  25. nef (unregistered) on October 2nd, 2009 @ 10:53 am

    And of corse I made a spelling mistake in a code tag and thereby fucked that up. :P
    Perhaps the blog owner(s)/admin(s) kindly could correct this mistake? For the sake of readability if not otherwise. ;)

  26. exNewt (unregistered) on October 2nd, 2009 @ 12:32 pm

    What most don’t realize that the cop has no idea what the potential issue is with this kid, nor if the kid is armed. The verbal threat is an attempt to gain the psychological upper hand, and to try and keep this from escalating where the kid WOULD get hurt.

  27. Bad breath seth (unregistered) on October 2nd, 2009 @ 1:16 pm

    The cop should have beat the kid. Children today have no respect for the law!!

  28. San Francisco police officer arresting skateboarder: "I’ll break your arm like a fckng twig." on (pingback) on October 2nd, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

    […] after Stow calls the officer a “fckng dck.” Over at metblogs SF, Richard Ault says the officer’s understanding of SF skateboarding codes is wrong. An article about the incident is here at the SF Chronicle. My two cents, as someone who is neither […]

  29. San Francisco police officer arresting skateboarder: "I’ll break your arm like a fckng twig." | Newsblog (pingback) on October 2nd, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

    […] after Stow calls the officer a “fckng dck.” Over at metblogs SF, Richard Ault says the officer’s understanding of SF skateboarding codes is wrong. An article about the incident is here at the SF Chronicle. My two cents, as someone who is neither […]

  30. j dunn (unregistered) on October 2nd, 2009 @ 4:32 pm

    officer schwab, 2099, congratulations, you’ve been you-tubed!! one can safely say that you wouldn’t have acted like that if you had known you were being recorded, but that’s ok, the whole world can watch firsthand and see exactly what a pathetic badged-thug you are. Sadly though, don’t worry, you’ll face no consequences, the ‘brothers-in-blue’ always protect one of their own, no matter how pathetic…

  31. Hahaha (unregistered) on October 2nd, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

    hahahaha, awesome, I love this cop. So if you resist arrest now you can’t force them into the car anymore I guess. The cops have to ask nicely please get into the car. Fuck the fags that were on the cops ass, fuck these pussies that can’t handle some words, fuck all pussies that say cops are worthless. When you’re being robbed who you gunna call, when you’re wife is murdered who you gonna call or wish was there to save her.
    Fuck the pussies that hate on cops. Fuck skateboard fags that vandalize county,city,state and private property to skate their fag boards on the sidewalks when lo and behold….there are fucking state,city,county sponsored SKATE parks for you fucking retarded bitches. So please cry more about a mean cop and keep being shitbags to the police, it will make me laugh more, it will earn your state money for the citations you get, and you get an AWESOME record that you have been ARRESTED, and you have to put that on JOB applications.

  32. dza (unregistered) on October 3rd, 2009 @ 8:42 am

    Umm..both the cop and the skateboard kid were being fucking dicks. Two wrongs don’t make a right any which way I see it.

  33. SFCitizen (unregistered) on October 3rd, 2009 @ 12:49 pm

    The Officer was doing his job. Resisting arrest is a crime. Doesn’t seem like excessive force was used. Just a bunch of whiners trying to entice the officer to get mad.

    I am sure that when there is an interview with the skaters parents, they will report he is gentle and played with rabbits when he was younger.

    Skaters use hills in SF like their own private skate slope, no regard for pedestrians (old folks and kids included) and they view cars as demons to be trashed. Enforce the law or wait for one of the skaters to file a lawsuit for injury & emotional suffering…. against the City of SF, for NOT enforcing the law. We can now expect a “critical ass” parade of skaters (oops but they cannot think that far into the future).

    Mr Skater should have also been charged with breaking and entering….the fence they breached.

  34. Bill (unregistered) on October 3rd, 2009 @ 11:34 pm

    The Municipal Code for San Francisco presently online doesn’t seem to prohibit skateboarding on all streets.

    Here’s the first part:


    In addition to public offenses created by the Vehicle Code, the actions listed in this Section 7.2 are prohibited, and each and every violation of a prohibition listed below shall be an infraction, except as otherwise provided in: (a) this Code; or (b) the Vehicle Code; or (c) as necessary to comply with the direction of a Police Officer or Parking Control Officer; or (d) with respect to a Municipal Parking Facility, upon the direction of an authorized parking attendant; or (e) with respect to any other Public Property, except with the permission of, and subject to such conditions and regulations as are imposed by the agency that owns the property that are available for public inspection at the agency’s offices.

    Here’s the second part, which describes the things that are infractions:


    (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.

    (Amended by Ord. 287-08, File No. 081340, App. 12/5/2008)

    It appears that the law may have changed since 2003. Has it changed again since this amendment from 2008?

  35. suckit (unregistered) on October 4th, 2009 @ 7:05 am

    First of all, I don’t think all cops are pricks. In fact, this guy is the exception. But at the same time, he doesn’t know the law, hes on a power trip he assaults and threatens a citizen and doesn’t read him his Miranda rights. All of that should be reason for this cop to be sued and have his reputation destroyed because that what he deserves.

    The kid was not wrong at all. We have this thing called free speech people and if you don’t know what that is you should probably check it out. He aggravated a person who just so happened to be a police officer, and this officer Schwab was happy to just go a head and assault and arrest a kid to get his monthly bonus. He was just on another power trip.

    I think that this cop is a total dick head, not all cops. If something isn’t done in retaliation by the kid arrested then he has just fallen subject to another bully.

    Honestly I just want to swear and swear at that cop, but I know that wont do me any good on here hahah.

  36. Burns! (burns) on October 4th, 2009 @ 11:57 am

    Just a brief clarification: (IANAL, but worked in criminal defense.) Contrary to what is portrayed on Law & Order and other cop shows, the reading of the Miranda warning is not a requirement for arrest the moment the cuffs are put on. That warning relates to statements the defendant makes that may later be introduced in court, so the warning should be read before any questioning. Otherwise, the defense attorney says, “My client was not aware that he wasn’t required to answer any questions,” and the judge strikes any statements made prior to the warning. In many cases the warning is never read to the person being arrested; not reading the warning doesn’t invalidate the arrest.

    Given that the officer in this case personally witnessed (and would testify to) the events that led to arrest, he probably wasn’t planning on any interrogation (he didn’t need the kid’s statements to fill in any details,) thus no Miranda warning required.

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