Police Magnet???

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Yesterday I was having a pretty great day. Everything wasn’t going perfect, but I was trying to make the best of it. I had expected to get my van back on Tuesday, but here it was Thursday and still no van. I called the shop and the guy said they had changed all the parts and were just doing the alignment now.

So I got on my MTB and decided to take a loop of the city. Exploring on my bike was one of the things that got me hooked on cycling intitially. I love riding around towns and see what you miss driving around in a car or what you don’t get enough of walking. I especially like riding in alleys. Alleys are a small window into a perspective of people’s lives that you don’t normally see.

I ran into a super interesting man on the bike path. He was blowing the path free of debris. He had this micro blower on wheels hooked onto an old Schwinn and was riding slowly down the path. It was another one of those situations of people who are working behind the scenes to make everyone’s life a little better. I talked to him for a while. He was a retired, 72 year old lab tech, who liked to roller blade and was tired of having stuff on the path, so he decided to do something about it himself. He had done over 6 miles of trail the day before and 6 that day. He wasn’t too happy with the parks department. A pretty interesting guy though. I can’t believe I’ve never seen him before.

Then I went down to a coffeeshop and had a cup and a muffin and read 785, the local Topeka magazine about groovy things. Then I started meandering my way over towards the alignment shop. I went by the building I roofed to check a couple things out and headed down the alley behind it. A couple blocks down, there used to stand a really old limestone house that was encircled with scaffolding. A super interesting mason lived there. I talked to him a few times over the years about the right mortar to use on 100 year old brick. The house was raised last year sometime when I was gone. I assume that means he is no longer on this planet. It is now just a lot where the house stood.

I noticed a mulberry tree at the back of the lot, near the alley. I hadn’t eaten many mulberries this year and decided to pick a few handfuls. I was picking mulberries and reminiscing about hot summer days when I was a child, when low and behold, a police car comes rolling up.

He stops, unrolls his window and asks me what I’m doing. I tell him that “I’m eating mulberries”. He then asks me if it’s my property. I think a second about why he would ask that, but go ahead and answer “no”. He asks me if I think that is okay. I hesitant longer, trying to figure out what he expects me to say, and finally answer what I think, that “yes, I think it is okay picking mulberries off a tree in a lot”.

Then he says, let me see some ID. I knew it was coming. I think I kind of laughed and said something like, “you have to be kidding”. He doesn’t say a word, but gives me an menacing stare. I think about it for a couple seconds. I didn’t feel like I had to produce any ID and I normally wouldn’t have even had it on me, but I was going to pick up my van, so had my wallet. Anyway, I took out my wallet and gave him my driver’s license. He called it in. It took a bit. He handed me my license back and said that I should be movin’ along. I never said another word to him after the “you have to be kidding”.

I don’t get it. I wasn’t dressed like a dirt bag. I had on jeans, a white t-shirt and my MTB shoes. Anyway, it kind of bummed me out. I was having such a nice day and he threw a wrench into it. I guess that is what makes life interesting. I had met this inspirational guy, that was doing me a service by clearing the bike paths of stuff. Then I see the other part of society, that is supposed to be doing me a service, but has somehow evolved into something else. I’m not quite sure what else it is, but it isn’t something I particularly like.

Up until recently, I had hardly ever had to produce a license to a police officer for anything other than a speeding ticket. Now, it seems like on a monthly basis, I’m having to do it for virtually no reason. I guess I just happen to be in the wrong places at the wrong time. But, I like being in those places at the times I’m there, so I guess it is something that I’m just going to have to get used to, no matter how much it rubs me the wrong way.

Anyway, the day didn’t get better. The van wasn’t repaired. A new bushing they put it failed I guess. Taking Bromont around is always something to look forward to. He ran a couple miles, decided it was too hot or something and jumped into the creek and wouldn’t get out forever. He likes swimming, so I guess it wasn’t that bad. I rode 35 miles with Bill. My shoulder and back are worse than last week. I can’t stand and am tweeked climbing sitting down. I thought since I felt okay last week, it would be much better by now. That isn’t close to the case. It’s only been two weeks, I need to remember that, but it’s hard.

I ran into this nice man clearing the bike path of debris.

I stopped and talked to him a good while. His name is Roger Steward and lives up on top of the sledding hill here in Topeka. The machine is a Yardvark. It is actually a small blower on wheels. Pretty interesting.

The mulberries were hanging and calling my name.

I'd only eaten a few handfuls before the police showed up.

The scene of the “crime”.

I've always liked train & tracks. I like what they represent to me - Movement of things efficiently. I think they nearly always make interesting photos.

The day got longer when I took Bromont for his run and he did a 90 degree turn into the creek and wouldn't get out for 10 minutes.

49 thoughts on “Police Magnet???

  1. jrem


    In my opinion, in small to medium-sized cities across this country, the police departments have about twice as many officers as are needed. Frequently, the officers simply go on fishing expeditions. I suspect that if your “record” had shown a shoplifting conviction 10 years earlier, the officer probably would have issued you a citation or worse.

    Although you probably did not have to give the officer any identification, I think you made the right call.

    Keep up the good work. Jim

  2. Todd

    Your post cracks me up. I totally understand your frustration. But, you might find it a bit odd cruising the back alley in a squad car with some guy standing out behind a tree for no apparent reason 🙂

    When are you going to give away more swag? I never win anyway so put something out there!

  3. John Howard

    Stop and identify laws are the worst!

    Police are all about domination. They’re trained to always be in “control” of a situation. If you hadn’t given him your ID he probably would have threatened to arrest you.

    And yes, your hair is a police magnet. Anybody that doesn’t look like they walked out of a middle class white suburban household is instantly suspicious.

    Hmm. Probably shouldn’t put my real name on this post…

  4. garth

    Cops, never around when you need one, always around when you don’t.
    Nothing like harassing a guy for picking fruit from an empty lot.

  5. dlshulman

    This was one of your best posts ever.

    From someone who works on the side of trying to hold cops accountable, I have to say that the cops overreach because the majority of Americans either don’t give a shit because they think it will never happen to them or they simply want an aggressive police force to keep them “safe.” Either way, it’s depressing and detracts from what makes this country great, i.e., free expression and diversity in all its forms. Good luck on your recovery!

  6. Wildcat

    Great post.

    What do you say to the random people when you take pictures of them? Do you tell them about this blog? Do they always know what a blog is? Etc.

    Just curious.

  7. tilford97 Post author

    Wildcat-I had talked to the guy for 15 minutes or so about a lot of different things before I asked him if I could take his photo. I told him I was going to put it on my website and he should check it out.

    I figure the cop thing is that the “best way” they have to apprehend someone is by running their license and “catch” them by randomness. So they are looking for any reason the can come up with to call a person’s license in. I’m wondering if I would have answer, “Why do you ask?” to the question of if this was my property, it would of been a issue? I suppose he “had” me for trespassing, even though I’m not sure you can just randomly stop people and ask them if they own where they are standing.

  8. Jeff

    Great post Steve! I love your perspective on life and the things most people take for granted. I DO NOT like cops in general. They’re necessary but too many of them are egomaniacs that love throwing their authority around. I think it would be a horrible job. Don’t let the bastards get you down!

  9. Dan Large

    Ciao Steve, I have several friends in law enforcement, one of them is a seasoned veteran of the SDPD and that guy almost never writes tickets. We were room mates for a few years and one day I noticed that his ticket book never seemed to get thiner. He said that the only time he has to change the book out is when they change something printed on the tickets. Our police force is spread too thin for him to waste time hassling people who are going about their own business. He has told me that police do profile shady looking folks on bicycles because it is very common for criminals to ride bikes around to look for “stuff” to do (if you know what I mean) It used to frustrate him that the other cops could not differentiate between a cyclist and a shady person. To a lot of cops we all look like shady people… I have been the focus of an over zealous police man several times, and it always amazed me that the cop could not tell that I was riding a very expensive bike and was just meandering.

  10. Freddy Merckx

    Fukin cops, so proud of themselves. Be glad you’re not mexican or black even

  11. tifosi

    I once dated a girl who’s dad was a cop in a pretty uptight town (whole other problem) – he told me that at least 1 out of 5 stops for simple random things would lead to an finding someone with an outstanding warrant, drugs, DUI, drunk in public, or some other reason to arrest them – simple things like a Brake light out, no light on a bike, no turn signal used etc…I am sure this is pretty common.

    Sometimes it is also easier IMO for them to justify what they are doing by looking for safer targets, compared with say the crazy drug user in the bad part of town to question.

  12. JoeVee

    You’re not at work, you healthy looking middle aged guy. Why not? You must be up to no good.

    Get a job and you’ll be fine. You’ll be where you belong in the middle of a work day – not out eating mulberries like a graying Huck Finn.

  13. jc

    Love the blog, Steve. Read it every week or so. I remember “racing” against you years ago at a mountain bike race at Quivera Boy Scout ranch. I was a junior wannabe and you were a pro, who blew by my like I was standing still. One of my favorite memories from my racing days.

    Now, I’m a cop in CO. Not making a judgment about the cop or you. Just pointing out that cops do look at the world differently from “normal” folks. Where you know what you are (a cool dude, out for a leisurely bike ride down an alley), the cop doesn’t. The cop sees a potential threat, and someone doing something just a bit out of the ordinary. Not right or wrong, just different. Most of the time different is cool and legal; sometimes it’s not.

    Just wanted to point out an alternate way of looking at things. Most cops I know (and I know a lot … all over the country), are good people trying to do the right thing for the right reasons. A few are assholes. Serious assholes. Trust that the good cops (the majority, in my experience) don’t like the assholes anymore than you do, and in most cases less. Much less.

    Cheers. Keep up the rad blog. I love it because it gives me a connection to home and the personal side of bike racing (which I miss). Good luck with the shoulder. It’s a rough injury (I tore my rotator cuff 8 years ago .. I opted for the no surgery route because I couldn’t afford 9 months off work … mine healed great, and I have no problems with it today).


  14. chuck martel

    If most cops are “good people trying to do the right thing for the right reason”, why don’t they EVER testify against another cop? The boys in blue are just another gang only they’re on the public payroll.

  15. devin

    While that was happening just a block over a serious crime was being committed and people got hurt…
    Must be the Hair.. and the MTB Shoes..

  16. Mike Rodose

    Sooooooooooeeeeeey Pig, Pig, Pig, Pig, Pig, Pig…

    Sooooooooooeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyyy Pig.

  17. Ted Lewandowski

    Jason (cop in Colorado) – spare us the BS – if anything were to happen where you were in a position to take a side you would ALWAYS side with your fraternal brothers – right or wrong – would not even be factored in. Plus most of you guys are a bunch of adrenaline junkies looking to pounce on some innocent person that can’t fight back (legally) and then go out drinking laughing about it – clowns most of you are.

    As Chuck so aptly said “The boys in blue are just another gang only they’re on the public payroll.”

  18. H Luce

    SCAB – Some Cops Are Bastards. Not all of them, but some. And the ones who are, stick out. That being said, you should know by now that police ask no innocent questions… the cop was trying to set you up for a criminal trespass arrest, and you cooperated by saying that you knew it wasn’t your property but you were on it. He ran you through NCIC and the Kansas Hot Files, found no outstanding warrants or criminal history, and told you to get a move on. End of encounter. If you had any outstanding warrants, you’d be off to jail. If you had priors, you’d be looking at an arrest for Criminal Trespass, maybe petty theft in the mix as well.

    OK, here’s what you do when Officer Friendly stops you and you’re on foot or a bicycle:

    Officer Friendly: Say, could I have a word with you? Do you own that property you’re standing on?
    You: Officer, am I free to go?
    O.F.: Yes you can go, but could i just ask you a few questions?
    You: Officer, am I free to go?
    O.F.: Of course, but is that alcohol I smell on your breath?
    You: Officer, am I free to go?
    O.F.: Sure, but can you tell me why you reek of marijuana and have such bloodshot eyes?
    You: Officer, am I free to go?
    O.F.: No, you’re under arrest for suspicion.
    You: I want to talk to a lawyer. Until then I’m going to remain silent.

    which is what you get for hanging around and talking to cops. In our society, they’re adversaries, they’re not on your side, they’re looking to get you into the clutches of the Criminal Justice System and maybe the Prison Industrial Complex. Don’t talk with them, if they ask you a question, ask if you’re free to go, if they say yes, then *go*. If they say no, you’re under arrest or detained and the best thing to do for you and your defense attorney is to shut up – and by the way, never, ever, ever consent to a search of anything, not even if you think you haven’t broken any laws.

  19. Tommasini53

    So,, can the police arrest or cite for treaspassing without a compliant from the property owner and no sign on the property?? Do I have to provide an I.D. upon request??

  20. Ted Lewandowski

    Yes – you have to provide an id upon request but you do not have to hand it to the officer – you can place it on your window and force him to write it down – and H Luce – the correct response is – “officer am I being detained” NOT “Am I free to go” – the latter puts the power on his/her side.

  21. Jim

    My experience with police is that most of them were the thugs when they were younger and they have learned that when they are on the back side of a badge, they can kick ass and take names.
    It seems like they are just looking for a reason to give you a hassle and/or kick your butt.
    Seems like most of them are just a little too trigger happy with tasers too. Be glad that didn’t happen to you!

  22. Paul

    Steve, a cop in a car in an alley. You, on a mountain bike in an alley. My money would be on you in that situation. You could have dusted him and you didn’t, and you also didn’t have any donuts on you to give to him. If I were you, I would follow thru on the high road and tomorrow call some city council members to let them know you don’t enjoy being hassled while eating mulberries.

  23. knower

    I know several cops who can go from nice to cop in matter of seconds. They are taught to control situations but most of the time they do not know how to control and end up playing cop. It’s pretty pathetic actually. They are a fraternity that gets to behave above the law. Protect and serve. No defend the fraternity and serve themselves. The worst is when they go fishing. They pull you over for no reason and then spend 10 minutes trying to find something, running your license, walking around your car looking for something. They get very annoyed when they can’t find anything. The ones who are real scum are the roiders. I was at the start of stage one of JMSR in the walmart parking lot and i was just sitting and observing. There were plenty of cops to watch. 50% were pseudo bodybuilders. They clearly liked too many doughnuts to really dedicate themselves to bodybuilding but the signs of roids in their upper bodies and faces was quite clear. These drug addicts with the fraternal brotherhood backing them up are truly dangerous.

  24. H Luce

    Ted – the power *is* on their side. Never, ever forget that. They can kill or wound with near absolute impunity. If you don’t like that, then go join your local black bloc…

  25. H Luce

    Oh yeah, and if in the course of your conversation with Officer Friendly you have the following exchange:
    “He stops, unrolls his window and asks me what I’m doing. I tell him that “I’m eating mulberries”. He then asks me if it’s my property. I think a second about why he would ask that, but go ahead and answer “no”.

    Bingo. He’s got the criminal act and the intent to nail you for criminal trespass, you just gave him probable cause to believe you were committing a crime, knowingly and with the intent to commit the crime. Moreover, it wasn’t a custodial interrogation, it was a casual encounter, so he didn’t have to Miranda-ize you, and the incriminating statements you made can be used against you in court. If the officer had chosen to arrest you, you’d be screwed six ways to Christmas and not a thing to do about it…

  26. Jim

    I didn’t read all comments…
    That old guy and the cop just epitomizes a lot of what’s wrong – sorry to be a downer.
    Lot of young guys just do not get it’s the simple things that are everything and I’m not just talking about cops. Do even kids pick mulberries these days? The old guy knows gestures are all we have and assumes everyone should be doing their part.
    I’m always with the quiet heroes.

  27. Ted Lewandowski

    If the vacant lot was not fenced-in and there was no signs indicating private property or do not trespass it would be really hard for the cop to justify arresting Steve but he could have charged him with disorderly and then resisting arrest.

    H Luce – when you ask an officer “am I being detained?” he will say yes or no – if he/she says no then you thank them and go – not sure what the rest of your comment refers to?

    Jim’s comment is spot on.

  28. H Luce

    Ted – that’s why the cop asked the question: “He then asks me if it’s my property.” Steve says no, and that gives the cop probable cause to make the arrest for criminal trespass, even though it’s for a really dumb and innocent thing like eating mulberries off a tree.

  29. joe

    If a cop pulls you over and says your eyes are red, have you been drinking ? The proper response is “your eyes are glazed, have you been eating donuts? Probaly get tazed for sure!!

  30. Thomas

    All cyclist run stop signs and dont follow traffic laws. Ofcourse we know this is not true. You dont want to be painted with such a wide brush cops dont either.

    You guys talk a lot of shit on cops online but fall right in line when encountering one. I suspect you would all call 911 in the case of a crime.

    Police departments are here to serve and protect and the big one make money.
    DUI,DWI, Traffic tickets are money makers.

    Steve I am sorry you keep finding yourself being profiled by the police but they will not stop. It will stop when you change. Be glad you are not a brown skin man. Next time you are out and about ask them about being messed with by the police. White guys have it easy

  31. Ted Lewandowski

    I took the initiative and emailed a complaint to the Topeka PD…here is their reply by Ronald Miller as of 5:25PM. Mr H Luce what are your thoughts now? Sound like profiling?

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Here’s a couple of thoughts: riding alleys on a bicycle to look into people’s lives isn’t a good idea. 2. How do you know that we didn’t get a “suspicious person” call on a grown man riding a bike picking berries? Just a thought.

    Ron Miller
    Topeka Police Dept.

  32. Mike Rodose

    It would appear that some police officers find a problem with the prospect of “grown men” riding bikes and picking mulberies.

    That’s for kids, he insinuates…

    However, most humans played cops and robbbers as kids, but got over it when we grew up.

    Apparently grown men should be driving around in nazi-like costumes, colorful muscle-cars, with lights, badges, radios, sticks and guns. And eating donuts. And bullying people living their lives.

    Backwards-ass thinking there, officer bobby. Keep serving and protecting with that high-level intellect.

  33. Ted Lewandowski

    Sounds like a nice lawsuit to me – Mr. Miller keep your answers coming – you know my email and my cell number – let’s go – bring this to a federal lawsuit – all of of you are nothing but Brown Shirts!!!

  34. Ted Lewandowski

    FYI- Limiting peoples freedom is a major no no in the USA Mr. Miller – just a thought!

  35. Ted Lewandowski

    Take it up the ass and call Mr. Tilford and apologize by 5.14.2012 – give me an excuse to sue you otherwise – just a thought.

  36. tilford97 Post author

    Guys-Let’s take this down a notch. It wasn’t like I got shot in the back or something picking mulberries.

    And it wasn’t like the guy was even impolite. I ranted a bit because it didn’t seem right. Some minor violation of my rights as an American. Plus, it kind of ruined the zen of my day. It was nothing more than that.

    I didn’t mean this post to turn the comment section into a hate police thing. I’ve had more than my encounters with the law this past year. And I think all of them have been bogus. But, even so, I have to give them at least one or two get-out-of -jail cards. They have a very difficult job. I think it would be nearly impossible not to become somewhat jaded and weary after a short time.

    So, enough police bashing. I think we’ve all said our views.

  37. Ted Lewandowski

    You take that as police bashing Steve – then why did you write about the incident? Seems you’re back-tracking when people are coming out to cover your butt.
    Just give them more POWER to do what they do by your inaction – and the violation of your civil rights – sit back and let it happen.

  38. Ted Lewandowski

    You lost me dude with your comments – you have no balls is all I have to say!!!

  39. Ted Lewandowski

    Mr. Miller – Can you explain how” to look into people’s lives isn’t a good idea” – can you cite what law that that violates?
    You have my contact info bitch – call me.

  40. tilford97 Post author

    Ted-I’d be the first to admit my frustrations with the police. I’ve put it out here many a time.

    I didn’t like my encounter a couple days ago. That is one of the perks of having a website. I can comment on anything I want.

    If I thought that I was “damaged” enough to report it to some higher authority, believe me, I would have. Even if I thought that this effort would be in vain.

    I could see how I might look suspicious. But, looking suspicious isn’t a crime. And we don’t live in a police state. At least not yet.

    So, I put it here, on my blog. That was the amount of attention I thought the encounter warranted. That is just my opinion, once again. Each and everyone of us handles each and every situation as they see fit. That is how I handled this one.

  41. mark

    Ted, you are way over the top. Sue, Sue, Sue, file a complaint , take action, is your common theme that never ends on all of your posts. You must be a tormented soul not to let go of the small stuff and focus on the important things in life. Peace

  42. Ted Lewandowski

    Mark – a common theme? You’re a loser – name one previous post that matches this one – that I take time out of my schedule to back Tilford only to have him back pedal – bet you never even raced a bicycle in your life.

  43. kenny79

    pwhaaaarr!land of the free home of the brave ,chillout people ,here in oz i got “detained for causing an affray”whatever that is for riding my bike to work at 1130am on an highway closed for the local (gold coast queensland )marathon at about mile 18.said road closure started at 0600am and wasnt a rolling closure .imagine how crowded it must have been at that time at mile 15 !and how dangerous a bike would have been for the contestants left planning a 7hr plus marathon (dumbest for me was the leading runners getting drink hand offs from cyclists on the news on tv that night)just keep low profile and dont antaganise our protectors!dont cut your hair either my shaved head gets just as many dodgy looks from the force as your curly locks !

  44. Greg

    I always talk to cops. Most of the time they are just guys doing their job. My kids are usually surprised when they start talking to me like a normal person. And I thank them for doing what they do. I know I wouldn’t want to put my life out there like they do.


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