As the heavy Friday night rains subsided, all was quiet in the Philadelphia Police Department’s 5th District headquarters.
Inside, the roll-call room was the location of a “Bike Court,” tasked with the expeditious processing of those found in violation of guidelines of behavior and alcohol consumption as defined by city officials and civic leaders prior to the Philadelphia International Championship bike race.
By 9 p.m., 22 cases were given verdicts – 17 guilty, one not-guilty, and four found guilty in absentia. Of them, the charges included disorderly conduct and open-container violations.
However, every case heard occurred well before Friday – none were related to bike race partying.
“We were expecting some ‘bring-ins,'” said Tom Muldoon, law clerk for Judge Angelo Foglietta, who presided over the Friday night court.
“The weather probably prevented them,” he suggested. “It was a quiet night.”
The 22 cases were it for the weekend. No other cases came in Friday night – court staff departed at 10 p.m. – and none were heard the rest of the weekend.
‘One of the best races we’ve had’
By all accounts, spectators at the PIC event were on their best behavior this year. PPD officials confirmed on Monday that no citations – and no arrests – were issued by the 5th Police District along the race route for the entire weekend.
“All in all, it was one of the best races we’ve had,” said Captain John Cerrone, commanding officer of the 5th District.
Last year, 12 citations were handed out to individuals and 12 citations to businesses in Manayunk.
Cerrone explained that officers from the PPD’s Narcotics Strike Force and Highway Patrol Unit – along with the State Police – assisted 5th District officers in patrolling the area in cars, bikes, and on foot, in both uniformed and plainclothes details.
While bike race festivities were comparatively subdued this year, there were reports of post-race rowdiness in the Manayunk business district and in surrounding neighborhoods. Asked to explain the absence of citations or arrests stemming from this, Cerrone said that his prerogative was “compliance.”
He said the policy used by his officers in response to a complaint at residences and commercial locations is to give disorderly persons the opportunity to comply with police requests. If these requests are met without challenge, he continued, there’s no need for arrests.
He maintained that monitoring public behavior this weekend was business as usual for police, albeit at a slightly larger scale.
“It could happen on any given Friday night,” Cerrone surmised.
So too could the heavily-publicized “Bike Court.”
What exactly is “Bike Court”?
As reported by NewsWorks, staffers from Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr.’s office said at a press conference last week that the bike court – which began last year as a means to render immediate judgment on the drunk and disorderly – would be in effect again this year, beginning on Friday night and, if need be, continuing through the weekend.
While the threat of a Bike Court was a likely deterrent to some would-be revelers, it was little more than a rebranding of Philadelphia Municipal Court’s Nuisance Night Court, which has been in existence since 1996, according to the court’s website.
Philadelphians may remember the “Eagles Court,” an outgrowth of Night Court – and a likely precursor to the largely-symbolic Bike Court – that began as an initiative of Judge Seamus McCaffery in 1997.
Janet DiTomasso, former director of Philadelphia Municipal Court Diversion Programs – the overseer of the Night Courts – explained to the Las Vegas Review Journal in April that a rotating cast of volunteer judges take turns holding court on Fridays in different police districts at least twice a month.
DiTomasso no longer holds this position. Her successor, Rita Crumlish, was not immediately available for comment. Muldoon said at the Bike Court on Friday night that any weekend violations occurring along the race route would likely be tried later in the month at a subsequent Night Court hearing.
Don Simon, chair of the Roxborough-Manayunk Bike Race Coalition, said that he was unaware of the Bike Court until last week’s press conference.
Simon indicated that his organization requested a night court to be held at the 5th District subsequent to the race, but was not involved in any discussions to secure this arrangement.
“We were aware of a ‘night court’ scheduled for the 5th police district for June 1st,” he said, “but it wasn’t really a bike court since it was held the Friday before the race.”
Asked if the Bike Court was in fact a rebranding of the Nuisance Night Courts, Councilman Jones said that as Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety, “it is a priority of mine to have effective communications with our judicial courts and “Bike Courts” were an example of this partnership.”
The collaboration continues…
While the Bike Court was, by appearances, a red herring, its message – along with a highly-visible law enforcement presence using discretionary tactics – no doubt contributed to a bike-race weekend which unfolded with few incidents.
“It was more family-friendly this year,” said Cerrone, reinforcing an “all-ages” message indicated both by police and city officials at last week’s press conference.
While lamenting the omnipresence of plastic-cup-bearing beer drinkers and the seeming disappearance of police following the race, Simon observed that the race was calmer this year.
“Most of the people I spoke with in Roxborough and Manayunk said things were much better,” he related. “There was hardly any litter, broken glass, etc. I have no information about fights or vandalism but there wasn’t any around the race course in Roxborough. The parties were pretty much quieted by 7 or 8 p.m.”
Simon added that police left after the race was over which caused an increase in open carrying of beer cans and bottles, and an uptick in rowdiness, but “nothing like it’s been in the past.”
Councilman Jones is already looking forward to next year’s race.
Jones intends to continue to collaborate with race organizers, community members, and local business leaders to make the PIC “better and better each year.”
“When it comes to working on behalf of the community,” he said, “your work should never end.”