Oregon Cyclist Says Cops Beat And Tasered Him For Biking While Black

Less than 20 miles from the country’s most bike-friendly city, cops are being sued for allegedly beating and tasering a man they pulled over for “bicycle violations.” Jermaine Robinson filed a federal lawsuit Thursday, claiming that he was racially profiled and now needs back surgery after a brutal assault by police in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Robinson was biking near his home in June 2012 when two cops stopped him for alleged bike violations. According to the complaint, cops threw Robinson off his bike, tasered him twice and drove their knee into his back when he asked whether he was free to leave. Robinson claims he suffered a herniated disk after the attack.

“We are aware of the litigation. The allegations do not describe the manner that we as a city serve our community,” said Patrick Preston, public affairs manager for city of Hillsboro. “We welcome diversity here and we have established a culture of respect and customer service.”

A spokesperson for the Hillsboro Police Department and Robinson’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.

Robinson was arrested and ultimately charged with one count of resisting arrest. A jury acquitted him of the charge last year.

The lawsuit also takes aim at the Hillsboro Police Department for “not [requiring] appropriate training of officers regarding the proper circumstances under which a Taser should be employed,” and says similar false arrests have been made in the past.

Along with financial relief for Robinson, the complaint asks the department to institute a new policy against illegal profiling. A 2007 survey of Oregon residents found that 66 percent of black respondents thought police “often or always” used racial profiling. Twelve percent of black respondents said they’d been pulled over twice or more in the last year, compared to just 3 percent of non-black respondents. A 2013 state senate bill to ban racial profiling by law enforcement never made it out of committee, but racial justice advocates say they will continue to push for the proposal.

A similar incident made Oregon headlines in 2008, when Portland police tasered biker Phil Sano. Cops tried to stop Sano for biking without a light. When Sano didn’t immediately stop, he claimed cops threw him against a wall and tasered him twice. As one witness described it, “the cop took two steps after him, grabbed him by the shirt, yanked him off the bike, ran him up the sidewalk and slammed him against the wall and then right away started tasing him.”

Cops said they only used a taser after Sano became “combative.” A jury acquitted Sano of charges of resisting arrest.


This post has been updated to include a comment from the city of Hillsboro.