Through documents acquired by my attorney, it became apparent that there was little investigation done by the police, and that there was a bias against me. The police described me repeatedly as a “bad driver,” yet they seemed to be unaware of my driving record – I have had one accident, a fender bender, and it was in the early 1970s. I have not had a moving violation in decades. My insurer provides me with a lower premium because I am in their Good Driver program.
When the police interviewed me by telephone, from almost the beginning it was painfully apparent that I was being treated as a suspect, not a victim. I spoke with the officer for about twenty-five minutes during which I did my best to clearly state what had happened. I told him that the incident had occurred very quickly, was confusing, and that I was not clear on a number of points (which would become clear, weeks later, after I saw the whole video). The officer demanded repeatedly that I come to the station. Given the nature of the questioning, I told the officer that I had given him all of the information that I had, and I thought it was time for me to speak with an attorney first. After all, everyone has a legal right to engage an attorney, and it was what any reasonable person would have done. Yet, it seems to have created a further bias and been a deciding factor against me. In an interview with one of the riders conducted by two officers, one of the officers said, “You’re willing to come in and talk to us; he’s not.” At that point in the interview, the officers and cyclist laughed.
The police did no real investigation because the outcome was predetermined. The best example of the police department's incompetence and bias was their failure to look closely at the only piece of evidence, the video. They never realized there was a witness to the event. He was seated in a van and can be seen in the video (see lowest still on the right). The police never interviewed this witness. My investigator located him, but unfortunately the man would not come forward with a statement because he was afraid, either of the riders or of the police (he may have been an illegal resident). This is too bad, as he could have clarified the rider's actions at the scene.
Both the City of Glendale and the Glendale Police Department failed to provide evidence to which I was entitled, either as a defendant or through the Freedom of Information Act. My attorney filed a number of discovery motions with the court, and yet only a portion of the evidence was provided in spite of the fact that the police are legally obligated to provide such information. My attorney attempted to contact the Glendale Chief of Police, but the Chief never responded. These were shameful displays of indifference and failure that interfered with my ability to defend myself against wrongful and politically charged accusations.
I faced more bias, and what I regarded as mistreatment, from the district attorney. Although the charges were misdemeanors, the DA’s office issued a full press release. The DA’s office does not normally issue press releases regarding misdemeanors. They did so to humiliate me and use me as a cautionary tale because the case involved cyclists. This seems to be a bias in favor on one group of citizens, cyclists, over another, drivers. This is not the fair and equal treatment that we should all expect. No individual should be publicly shamed to promote a cause.
In the press release, the DA stated that I could receive up to five years in jail, which was repeated in the press. Though technically correct, this was an exaggeration done for effect. Every attorney I spoke with said that even if I were guilty, which I was not, I would spend no time in jail given the nature and circumstances of the case.
The police, district attorney, and the City criminalized a near accident to further their own purposes.
Even the judge, who generally seemed fair and reasonable, treated me unfairly at one point. We all enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty (or admitting guilt). Immediately after dismissing the charges, the judge said to me, “Stay out of trouble.” I responded quickly and decisively that I had not been into trouble, and that the arrest was wrongful. By admonishing me for something I did not do, did not admit to doing, nor had I been convicted of, he violated my right to a presumption of innocence.
These series of Kafkaesque experiences have convinced me that all levels of the criminal justice system are fundamentally flawed. And this is particularly true of the police.
I recognize that many others, particularly those of color, have been wronged far worse than I. Nevertheless, each of us must speak out when we have been mistreated by the authorities. I am doing so in my own way through the photographs in the Police Culture Series.
#24 Bodycam, 2017
#70 Bodycam, 2017 - cyanotype
These photographs were made from images captured by police body cameras, bystander cellphones, and surveillance equipment that were later posted to YouTube. Police Culture is divided into three series, Bodycam (originally taken with police body cameras), Standard Issue (relating to police weapons), and Police State (relating to general police culture). Title numbers refer to the negative number.
Reed’s work questions the truthfulness of photographic images, which can distort reality and give a false impression, leading to wrong conclusions. To Reed, the use of photographs, still or moving, is particularly worrisome in the hands of law enforcement, who seem incapable of appreciating the sometimes misleading nature of images. Additionally, such photographic recordings, especially when sanctioned by the state, raise questions concerning the government’s right to view our every move.
In his practice, Reed highlights these issues by distorting and aestheticizing images of tragedy and heartbreak, often rendering them nearly unrecognizable. All of his photographs question the truthfulness of photography, the limits of our individual perception, and our relentless quest to interpret images.
All images are produced as archival pigment prints. Some are available in cyanotype, such as #70 Bodycam, 2017.
#69 Bodycam, 2017
#29 Standard Issue, 2017
Stills from rider's video - note that neither rider was directly behind my car when I stopped, my wheels stayed straight (I did not swerve), and it is the rider who swerved at my car.
*I entered a plea of nolo contendere, which is NOT an admission of guilt. I did so because the DA agreed to dismiss the charges entirely. I agreed to volunteer for fifty hours in a library and to pay a modest fine. I helped a college library apply for a grant, which they were awarded. I accepted the plea offer because going to trial, even when one is innocent, can cost between $50,000 and $60,000 (a felony twice that amount, or more), and I would have spent nearly 50 hours in trial and trial preparations. The cost of defending oneself, in both time and money, is why so many people are forced to use public defenders who may be skilled and well-meaning but who do not have the resources nor the time to mount a complete defense.
**From a police interview with one of the riders.
#15 Police State Series, 2017
dennis reed photography
#126 Police State, 2018
#34 Standard Issue, 2017
#102 Bodycam, 2018
#92 Standard Issue, 2017
all content © dennis reed
#143 Police State, 2019 (neg 2016)
Still from rider's video - note the witness in the van (in circle), whom the POLICE NEVER BOTHERED TO INTERVIEW!
#91 Standard Issue, 2017
#7 Standard Issue, 2017
#132 Standard Issue, 2018 - cyanotype
#128 Police State, 2018
#81 Standard Issue,2017
#25 Bodycam, 2017
#146 Police State, 2019
#148 Police State, 2019
#80 Standard Issue, 2018
In the spring of 2016, I was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon. The supposed weapon was a car. The charges were false, fabricated by two cyclists and blindly accepted by incompetent police. The incident was, at worst, a near accident in which no one was injured and no property was damaged. Eventually, the charges were dismissed.*
Below is a summary account of what happened and some of the wrongful actions of the police and others following the incident:
While driving on a two-lane road, I honked before passing two cyclists. Suddenly, I heard (and felt) something strike my car. I did not know what it was. Did I run over something or was my car intentionally hit? I was startled and stopped immediately.
Was stopping a good idea? No, it was dangerous. But it was not an idea at all. Rather, it was an instinctive reaction to a sudden and unexpected surprise. But, in stopping, I did NOT slam on my brakes and took around 100' to stop the car.
The cyclists claimed that I swerved at them. One of them had a video camera mounted to his bike, and it recorded my stop. They claimed that the video showed me swerving, and, like other internet bullies, they distributed the video widely on the internet in an effort to vilify me and champion their cause. Clearly, they instigated the incident so that they could record it.
On the same day as the incident, I filed a police report describing the event. I did so for no reason other than to alert the authorities that some cyclist may have taken up a strategy of striking cars when drivers honk. Let me say at this point, I will not treat the riders as they did me. Other than a few points of fact, I will not vilify the riders, though it is tempting to do so.
When I stopped, my car did NOT swerve. The wheels of my car stayed straight, as can be seen by carefully examining stills from the video (see sequence to right). I had no reason to swerve. I was not angry, and I had expressed no anger toward the riders. In an interview with the police, one of the riders admitted that I had no interaction with them before or after the incident.**
In fact, the rider swerved at my car. In the video, the rider can be seen first looking back at my car, then swerving toward it. Did he do so intentionally to heighten the drama of the video he knew that they were shooting, or did he swerve to avoid a nearby van? I do not know. But either way, it was he and not I who swerved.
The cyclists took their video to the Glendale Police Department where it was examined. The cyclists were turned away, being told “there is nothing here.”**
Determined to pursue the matter, the riders took the video to a cyclist group who supported a local Glendale City councilperson. No doubt the riders did this because the police department in the City of Glendale worked under the City Council. At the time, the councilperson was running for State Assembly, and the name of this very cyclist group appeared on nearly every piece of the councilperson’s campaign literature. The councilperson, without looking at the video, took it to the police chief and encouraged him to pursue the matter. I was arrested.
If you do not see what is wrong with the councilperson’s actions, imagine another scenario in which a politician approached a police chief and asked that an investigation be suspended against his or her relative. Such actions would be self-serving and constitute wrongful interference. What happened to me is the flip side of the same coin. The police chief should have known better. The actions of both were unconscionable.
In their report to the district attorney, the police charged that I swerved my car, and they also claimed that the report I filed was false. It was NOT false, and there was no evidence to support the claim that it was false. Also, the police stated that I slammed on my brakes to the point that the ABS system was engaged. This was untrue, and, again, there was no evidence to support the claim. In the video my wheels can be seen rotating for a considerable period as the car slowed down as I took nearly 100 feet to stop. The police arrest report was filled with such misstatements and imaginings.
Most crucial, there was nothing illegal about stopping, fast or slow. There was no criminal act unless there was clear evidence of INTENT to harm someone. The video does NOT show intent. The police created a scenario that supported what they imagined MIGHT have happened – they substituted supposition for evidence.