Rantz: Seattle bike cops sue city after brutal, preventable injuries

May 13, 2020, 8:46 PM | Updated: May 14, 2020, 10:27 am
Seattle police safety, radio outage, interference, seattle police lawsuit...
Seattle police at a demonstration in 2020. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Two Seattle police officers are suing the city for brutal injuries that they argue were preventable, had the department properly maintained their bicycles.

One sergeant tore his left labrum from the front of his shoulder to the back. The second officer shattered his right arm, resulting in lengthy orthopedic surgery. As a consequence of the injuries, both officers were sidelined for months.

The lawsuit alleges improperly maintained bicycles caused the injuries to the two Seattle police officers. As a result, attorney Cheryl Snow, for Friedman and Rubin, alleges negligence, seeking general and special damages determined at trial and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

More troubling is a third plaintiff, the wife of one of the injured officers, who attempted to use a public disclosure request for data on bicycle parts ordered by the Seattle Police Department. This data would presumably be used to show the city didn’t properly care for the bicycles. The lawsuit alleges the department withheld records in violation of the Public Records Act.

Seattle police lawsuit alleges remarkable negligence

Despite the bicycle officers’ tremendous dedication in service to the city, particularly in crime-heavy downtown Seattle and Belltown, the lawsuit alleges the city pays them little respect in return, at least when it comes to maintaining their bikes. The lawsuit alleges:

SPD operates its bicycle patrol units without timely inspection and maintenance schedules, conducts inadequate inspection and maintenance, fails to create and/or keep adequate records of repairs and maintenance to its bikes, lacks adequate numbers of adequately trained mechanics, and routinely fails to timely repair and replace its bikes. When it issues and provides equipment to its officers, SPD has a duty to ensure that the equipment is properly maintained. Similar to a department-issued patrol car or firearm, an SPD-issued bike has to be properly maintained and in good-working order. Any failure of this duty directly impacts the safety and well-being of patrol officers.

According to the officers, the lack of maintenance caused them severe bodily damage.

Seattle Police Guild: We’re ready to move on from federal consent decree

A torn labrum

Sergeant Travis Hill joined the Seattle Police Department in 2008 and has had a stellar record, per the complaint. He joined the Bike Unit in late 2017. Less than a year later, on August 18, 2018, he’d become a victim of the alleged negligence.

He was patrolling Seattle’s waterfront on a 2014 Volcanic Hard Tail Mountain Bike when, toward the end of his shift, his bike chain cassette slipped and locked up. The lawsuit says Hill was tossed “over the handlebars, slamming him onto the concrete, and dislodging his bike’s rear wheel.”

Consequently, Hill’s “left labrum was torn from the front of his shoulder to his back.” He underwent surgery to “reattach the labrum to the shoulder bone by placing anchors in the bone.” It’s as painful and gruesome a surgery as it sounds.

For nearly seven months, Hill was unable to work, only being cleared for light duty on March 4, 2019. He still complains of “constant pain and limited mobility” in his shoulder, and has endured hours of physical therapy.

A shattered arm

Officer Mike Gore is, in many ways, Seattle Police’s golden boy. He’s a two-time recipient of the Chief’s award and earned himself an Officer of the Month award back in 2018. In 2019, he received more praise with two excellence awards for work routinely lauded by the city.

Most recently, the Department lauded his efforts supporting the International District. Just last month, Chief Carmen Best gave him a Twitter shoutout for his work.

Unfortunately, the lawsuit contends the love does not extend to protecting him from faulty bikes.

On June 17, 2019, Gore was patrolling downtown Seattle on a 2014 Volcanic bike the city gave him. On his way back to the precinct, the bike chain snapped, sending Gore careening over the handlebars. The lawsuit said he slammed into the back of a car.

The resulting injury was severe. His right arm was shattered, and the diagnosis was a “compound and comminuted fracture” requiring a long surgery to repair. He wasn’t able to return to light duty until September 6, 2019. It took until January of 2020 before he could return to patrol.

Like Hill, Gore is still dealing with constant pain. He also has limited use of his right arm.

So what happened with the bikes?

The lawsuit says both officers performed an A-B-C Quick Check, per standard protocol, before each use. This is a basic review of everything you’d need to safely operate a bicycle. But there’s only so much you can do when the city doesn’t properly maintain the fleet, per the lawsuit.

Hill previously “complained about the fact that the chain on his bike was slipping, which caused him to jolt forward and lose his balance.” After several trips to SPD mechanics, he was told his bike was repaired. But after more use, Hill realized it wasn’t fixed and he needed to constantly return the bike for more repair.

For Gore, the lawsuit contends if the city had a better system of inspecting, maintaining, and repairing the fleet of bikes, he would not have been injured. Since officers like Gore are prohibited from ordering their own parts to fix a bike, the lawsuit says the onus is on the city to offer this necessary review and repair on their own.

The city and union respond

The city of Seattle generally doesn’t respond to litigation and this was no exception. I asked, however, for a statement from the SPD on what they do to inspect and repair bicycles in their fleet. They declined two opportunities to provide details. So did the mayor’s office, forwarding me to the city attorney.

A Seattle City Attorney spokesperson told me that “our attorneys intend to investigate the claims.” They did not provide a timeline for the investigation, citing both the pandemic and the fact that “timing already varies with the facts and circumstances of each case …”

The police union, the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild, has a bit more to say than the city. Officer Mike Solan, president of SPOG, released this statement:

One of SPOG’s responsibilities as a labor union is to make sure our members’ working conditions are safe and those working conditions are in line with the collective bargaining agreement with the city. Anytime department issued equipment as it pertains to those contractual working conditions is not provided nor maintained properly, that becomes a significant safety issue that we must address. This is especially important when our members become injured by either not having the proper equipment necessary to safely conduct their job or by them using poorly maintained or neglected city equipment. This is not only important for our membership’s general welfare and safety but it can have a profound negative impact on recruiting and retention.

Proud cops who just want to be safe on the job

As the city investigates, the two officers are still proudly serving their community as officers. They’d just like to see the department adopt policies that could prevent brutal injuries like the ones they suffered.

“I have two clients who are proud members of the Bike Patrol Unit and one of their primary goals is they want to make sure that they’re safe,” their lawyer Cheryl Snow told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “One of them’s a sergeant. He wants to make sure that the officers in his unit are safe. And I think one of our goals is to see the city of Seattle adopt a way more detailed, way more thorough plan of maintenance, of inspection, to replace bikes that need replacing. … If it takes this lawsuit to force the Seattle Police Department to adopt some of the changes that they need to, that’s one of the things we hope to accomplish.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter and Instagram or like me on Facebook

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
  • listen to jason rantzTune in to AM 770 KTTH weekdays at 3-6pm toThe Jason Rantz Show.

Jason Rantz Show

Jason Rantz

Jason Rantz

Rantz: Inslee firing thousands isn’t about health – it’s about forced vaccinations

Governor Jay Inslee's COVID-19 vaccine mandate isn't about public health. It's about power and forced vaccinations. 
2 days ago
KTTH staff

Pierce County Sheriff Troyer says he knew charges were ‘coming since day one’

Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer joins the Jason Rantz Show to react to two misdemeanor charges against him from the attorney general's office.
2 days ago
Jason Rantz

Rantz: State AG charges Pierce County Sheriff with 2 misdemeanors after ‘unusual’ move

Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office is readying misdemeanor charges against Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer. The filing could come as early as Tuesday.
3 days ago
police, consent decree...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: Seattle mayor downplays crisis, falsely says only 24 officers didn’t turn in vaccine paperwork

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan told reporters on Monday that "only about two dozen officers have not put in their [vaccine] paperwork" ahead of the midnight deadline.
3 days ago
unvaccinated officers Seattle...
KTTH staff

Seattle mayor: ‘About two dozen’ SPD officers have yet to submit proof of vaccination

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and interim Chief Adrian Diaz both submitted final pleas to unvaccinated officers over the weekend. 
3 days ago
Jason Rantz

Rantz: Trooper tells Gov. Inslee to ‘kiss my…’ in final sign-off before vaccine mandate

A 22-year veteran of the Washington State Patrol signed off from his final shift with some parting words for Governor Jay Inslee: "Kiss my..."
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Rantz: Seattle bike cops sue city after brutal, preventable injuries