Niles, MI — When the Niles skate park was built, according to some residents, the impression they got from the fundraisers put in place to help construct it, was that bicycles would be allowed. The town reportedly sold t-shirts with bikes on the front to help construct the skatepark. But after construction, somewhere along the way, bikers became an unwelcome presence at the town’s skatepark — so police were called in.

Both Skateboarding and BMX biking are Olympic sports, and any town should be proud of having a teenage population desiring to pursue their sport, possibly even making it to the Olympics. But not Niles. Biking in the skatepark isn’t wanted, and offenders are often given hundreds of dollars in tickets with one resident reporting saying he’d amassed nearly $700 in fines for skating and biking infractions.

Evidence of just how serious the apparent aggravation bikers pose to police was documented last week when two young men (one a minor) were arrested by Niles police. According to an email we received from Niles Police Chief Jim Millin, “Ofc. Daniel observed a subject riding a bike inside the skatepark which is a violation of skatepark rules.”

When Ofc. Daniel attempted to make contact with the young man about removing his bike from the skate park, “he (the minor) and another subject identified as Mr. Fedak began yelling and cursing loudly creating a disturbance.”

Chief Millin said, “There were other people using the skatepark, many of which were children and young adults. Both subjects were warned to stop their disturbances but continued. Mr. Fedak was identified as being an adult while the other subject was a 14-year-old minor. Mr. Fedak was arrested for disturbing the peace and the minor was turned over to his parents. Mr. Fedak posted a $50.00 bond and was released.”

Both officers are veteran police officers with Chief Millin saying, “Ofc. Daniel has been with the department for 10 years and Lt. Fitz was with the department for 27 years (since retired).” Apparently Lt. Fitz is working while in retirement it seems, which is commonplace for pensioned officers who want to stay busy.

Haley Textor, Fedak’s girlfriend, recorded the drama on her cell phone as her friends were being arrested at the skatepark for biking and asking questions. From the video, the teens can be heard discussing how a young man was arrested, and placed in the back of a squad car, seated next to the cop’s aggressively barking attack dog, with only a divider separating the two. Textor wrote in her Facebook post describing the incident.

So today the cops came and arrested someone for being on there bike and Gibby politely asked them why they were arresting the boy. So they arrested Gibson for “disturbing the peace” which first they didn’t read him his Miranda rights. Second they said that if you talk back you will also get arrested which is against freedom of speech.

After Fedak says he asked the cops why his friend was being detained, he too was arrested. The unidentified officer asked Fedak how old he was, to which he replied, “17.” The officer then told him he was going to jail for “obstructing his investigation” and “disturbing the peace”, which is in line with what Chief Millen told us.

But it’s what one of the officers said which has some questioning if the youths’ freedom of speech may have been infringed upon. The police officer told the watching crowd of teens, “Let me remind you, anybody else who wants to run their mouth is going to have the same thing happen to them.” It’s unclear as to what the officer was referring. Was he speaking of the allegations of using profanity, or was he discussing simply challenging their authority? Those questions remain unanswered.

We, at The Free Thought Project looked for “run their mouth” in the Michigan criminal code and could not locate where it was a crime to do so. The officer continued barking orders at the villainous bikers. “You’re obstructing me. I asked you to leave, now leave. We have more cuffs!” the officer told the youth who were on a public sidewalk or on public park property, again not criminal.

While many of the town’s residents support their local police, as well they should, what they might not be aware of is the practice of ticketing skaters and bikers translates into big money for some police departments. In other words, cops all across the country often target bikers and skaters for ticketing so they can bring in more money for their departmental budgets.

“If you obstruct me, I’m going to arrest you, too,” the officer barked at Textor, just before she stopped recording.

Small towns all across the country are surrounded with big city problems (opiate addictions and related violent crimes) yet these cops cannot solve a simple problem of sharing skateparks with skateboarders and bikers alike.

Instead of helping to create and craft a solution to a crowded skatepark, the police department appears more than willing to help cycling teens start out their adulthood with a criminal record, instead of inspiring them towards Olympic Gold. No wonder, as the teens see the police cart off their friends to jail, they turn and say, “F**K the police!” It’s precisely that type of sentiment which needs to change. Police departments need to work on restoring trust instead of giving reasons for the public to resent them.

If the one teen who started the problem by riding his bike in the skatepark was a minor, and would not be arrested, then why place him in the back of the squad car, beside a trained attack dog, unless of course the placement was done to intimidate and scare the kid into submission to park rules. The other youth, who knew he was a minor, may not have reacted in the way they did as a result. Again, it’s about preventing crime and not creating criminals because someone questions an officers actions.

The officers’ behavior did not go unnoticed by officer Dominick Izzo, candidate for Cook County, IL Sheriff who posted his reaction to the video on his Facebook page. Izzo quoted the officer’s threats to arrest the youth for exercising their rights to free speech;

Nice threat to violate their free speech.
‘Anyone else (who) wants to run their mouth is going to have the same thing happen to them.’
These cops are embarrassments.

Izzo is well aware of how toxic crooked cops can be to a police department and a community. In an exclusive with The Free Thought Project, Izzo called out his police chief, George Filenko, for being inept, threatening, bullying, and sending innocent people to prison. He’s suing Filenko and the Village of Round Lake Park, IL for knowingly violating all officers’ rights to privacy when it was discovered their body cameras were recording 24/7, and caught several officers in compromising and intimate situations.

As TFTP has documented, police encounters with skaters and bikers can become hazardous to citizens’ health who choose to exercise their rights to engage in sporting activities around cops with a chip on their shoulder. One Baltimore cop was eventually fired (after a 5 year investigation) for slamming a kid on the ground after the skateboarder referred to him as “dude.”

Jack Burns is an educator, journalist, investigative reporter, and advocate of natural medicine