The Third Hadley Encounter: Relapse
On Saturday, 03/20/2010, at about 10:45AM, I was traveling West on Route 9 in Hadley, just East of Bay Road, when I heard a siren behind me. I had been recording video of my trip with a camera attached to the side of my helmet. I looked back, saw a police patrol car, and pulled over. Mitchell Kuc, whose name I found out is pronounced like "cook", emerged from the patrol car. Due to imperfect memory some events might be out of order in my account.
He asked me if I had any ID. I asked what kind of ID he had in mind. He said he meant a driver's license or State issued ID. I truthfully said I did not have one with me. He asked for my name and mailing address, which I gave. He said that he was writing me a ticket for failing to keep right and went back to his car.
After some time, another patrol car approached from the East and stopped behind Officer Kuc's patrol car. An officer from the second patrol car (I'll call him Officer II) talked with officer Kuc for some time. Officer Kuc approached again with a ticket. Another patrol car approached from the West, made a U-turn and stopped near us. I think that Officer II had left by that time. Officer Kuc handed me my ticket. An officer from the third patrol car (I'll call him Officer III) approached.
Officer Kuc noticed my camera and asked me if it was a camera and I answered yes. He told me that by recording his voice without explicitly warning him of it that I was violating Federal wiretapping law. Him and Officer III said that Federal law prohibited secretly recording someone's voice. (I believe this is State law and that Federal law only prohibits secretly recording someone's voice if you are not part of the conversation.) I said that I was not being secretive since the camera was in plain view, right next to my face. Officer Kuc said that I was being secretive because I did not explicitly warn him that I was recording and because he had no reason to suspect that it was a camera. He demanded that I turn off the camera and hand it to him so he could hold it as evidence. I asked him for a receipt several times but he refused to give me one. I handed him the camera.
Officer Kuc and Officer III informed me that they were aware of my having hired a lawyer (who had sent a cease-and-desist letter to the chief about a month earlier) and made disparaging comments about it. Officer Kuc said that he had spoken to the district attorney, who supported his position. Officer Kuc and Officer III continued to talk to me about how serious a crime I had committed with the camera and how I was begging for death by riding in the middle of the lane. Both officers threatened to arrest me for disorderly conduct the next time either of them saw me in the middle of a lane again. Officer III said that he would have arrested me right off if he had been the one to pull me over. Officer Kuc showed a book that said something about a particular section of the Massachusetts General Laws (I don't remember which one) that required drivers to "keep right" when being overtaken. (Chapter 89: Section 2 says to "give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle", but I don't think that this was the section that he mentioned.) I said that "keep right" does not mean stay at the far right of the lane. Neither Officer Kuc nor Officer III acknowledge the distinction. (I could also have said that it does not mean staying to the right in anticipation of being overtaken, only when it is necessary, sufficient, and reasonable to facilitate a particular overtaking, but I did not.) Officer Kuc told me that the same rules apply to everyone and that he enforced them the same for everyone; He was not specifically targeting me as a cyclist (which is pretty outrageous considering the circumstances). I said that I would be happy to discuss this further under different circumstances. Officer III said that he had no interest in discussing it further under any circumstances.
Officer III asked where I was coming from (I said Amherst), where I was going (I said Northampton), and why. When he got to the third question I said that I did not think it would be appropriate to discuss that. Officer III asked if it was because I thought it was a violation of my privacy and I said yes. I asked if I was free to leave. Officer Kuc said not yet. He consulted with Officer III out of earshot. Eventually both officers returned and Officer Kuc told me that I could leave. I went into the adjacent parking lot. Both officers left.
I arrived at the bike lab at about 11:30AM, so the encounter must have lasted about thirty minutes. (On the up side, I got to teach some cycling skills to a kid at the bike lab.) Anyway, I am still not safe in Hadley and I am especially worried about the wiretapping accusation.
At some point, Officer Kuc accused me of having lied about my name, saying that he had identified me as Eli Damon Cooper rather than Eli Damon. I do not know how he identified me as Eli Damon Cooper or how he justified to himself the accusation that I was lying. I told him that Eli Damon was my true, full, current, official name but that I had formerly held the name Eli Damon Cooper. Despite this, he wrote the ticket to "Eli Cooper".
On 04/01 I found a notice in my mailbox summoning me to court on 04/27/2010 to be arraigned on charges of disorderly conduct and unlawful wiretapping. The charges were brought against "Eli Cooper".