February 27, 2017

Crunching numbers on Minneapolis skateboard tickets

Kevin Romar's infamous encounter with the MPD, as seen here.

Based on personal experience alone, one would assume the Minneapolis Police Department issues a decent number of skateboarding tickets each year. One of the more enjoyable aspects of my day job is writing a police blotter, and between the reams of citations written to people driving with a revoked license in the suburbs I cover and the fact I got my first skateboarding ticket at 14-years-old (albeit from the University of Minnesota Police Department), skateboard tickets would seem like a normal occurrence. Maybe not.

Based on information requested by Phil Schwartz of Minneapolis police, linked to here, between May 2006 and June 2014 police patrolling downtown Minneapolis for the First Precinct issued 67 skateboard tickets, sometimes to multiple people involved in the same incident. An imperfect way of framing that -- because of winter -- is to say MPLS police gave out .67 tickets per month over that nine year and 99 month timeframe. Sort of underwhelming.

Still, there are things to be gleaned from the spreadsheet. Schwartz said he requested the information based on curiosity about how large a shadow an officer James Bulleigh (an actual cop's name) over the mountain (or molehill) of tickets. Schwartz explained why Bulleigh was of particular concern:

"I’ve gotten about five skateboarding tickets in my life and for a majority of those, he either issued them to me, or was present. I remember my first skateboarding ticket was about a year after I started skating. I ollied over a crack outside the Uptown McDonald's while waiting for a showing of Dogtown and Z-Boys at the Uptown Theater. And he came out from his dinner break at McDonald's to ticket me.

A couple years later, at the underground garage with manny pads at 50th and France was the next ticket I got from him. Also, I got a ticket downtown from Metro Transit Police for skating on the sidewalk -- not illegal, I appealed it and it got tossed out. As they were writing the ticket officer Bulleigh happened to be nearby and must've thought 'Ooh, skateboarder getting a ticket,' and came up and egged on. Just had to be there. Seemed like he wanted to be a part of it.

Another time, I was skating on Nicollet Mall and he said something along the lines of, 'Just because your parents didn’t do a good job raising you doesn’t mean you can come and skateboard downtown.'"

Schwartz was onto something -- of those 67 tickets written over a nine year span, Bulleigh was involved with 28 of those incidents -- a solid 42 percent of them.

Bulleigh is also known amongst other skaters. Schwartz did the legwork for me and sent out a text querying other dudes who frequented downtown in the mid-to-late 2000s.

At some point, Bulleigh stopped Dana Ross and taunted him for skating with a bunch of 16-year-olds. He gave Kirian Stone a curfew ticket once while he was out skating (an educated guess says that's case number 241507 on the spreadsheet). Bulleigh was also present for one of the more memorable examples of MPD cracking down on skaters -- it's pictured above, he's at left he's the guy at right, in the thick of the action.


The clip is from an ├ęS tour clip circa last decade. Somewhere on Nicollet Mall, Kevin Romar, one of many of a group of skaters but singled out, is mashed into a bench as he's handcuffed. There's not much context but it obviously looks bad, and through the grapevine, Schwartz said he'd heard dudes from the trip thought the whole thing was racially motived.

The spreadsheet does list the race of those stopped/ticketed -- Schwartz said that was another data point in which he was interested. Of the 67 tickets, 13 of those were given to someone the police listed as black; three were given to people listed as "other," race-wise, and two had no data entered.

For what it's worth, that ratio of black skaters ticketed to those of other races matches Minneapolis demographics, if not exactly -- skaters listed as black make up 19.4 percent of those ticketed. Minneapolis is 18.6 percent black.

There may be no real secrets hidden in this skateboard ticket data. It would be illuminating to see it from other agencies -- U of M PD in particular -- and for a broader timeframe than 2006-2014. Schwartz has volunteered to ask for more data from the MPD, covering more years. A followup post will likely happen, but it isn't imminent: he said his initial request for information took roughly three-quarters of a year to be filled. Other highlights from the existing data:

* The youngest skater ticketed was 13 years old, the oldest was 30.

* The vast majority of tickets were issued on Nicollet Mall -- 57 of 67 -- a good 85 percent of them. What will policing be like on the remodeled mall, assuming there's something to skate?

* The year the most skateboard tickets were written was 2006, the year the data starts, with 16 citations. The numbers essentially decline from there, bottoming out with no tickets written in 2012 and a total of three between 2013/2014. Here's the breakdown:

2006: 16
2007: 6
2008: 10
2009: 15
2010: 7
2011: 9
2012: 0
2013: 1
2014: 2

* One piece of information not included in the ticket data? Sex -- seemingly everybody assumed it was all guys ticketed, myself included, until I checked.


Schwartz said he thinks Bulleigh retired a couple of years ago. Of note: In spring, 2015, Minneapolis Minneapolis settled an excessive force suit filed against Bulleigh for nearly $10,000. Can't remember when you were last ticketed? There's a chance the ticket will be listed on the Minnesota court records portal


Badger said...

Good 'ol Officer Bulleigh. That piece of shit bummed rushed me in summer of '93 at the Fed. Chased me for a few blocks { where I ended up running into a dead end) then maced and beat me pretty good. my wrist were swollen for a week because of how tight he slapped the cuffs on.

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