SPPD Reserve Officer resigns after
YouTube video sparks bicyclists’ uproar
After two days of online outrage, the Santa Paula Police Reserve Officer behind a series of YouTube videos whose latest installment joked about running over bicyclists has resigned.
Laura Weintraub, according to SPPD Chief Steve McLean was a reserve officer “for about three years,” whose duties were confined to a few hours of office work each month, resigned Sunday afternoon.
Her resignation, which followed an earlier apology, did not still demands that Weintraub be criminally prosecuted by those identifying themselves as bicyclists from throughout the nation.
McLean said Weintraub has even received death threats since her video, part of her The Cup Holder Commentary series, was posted last week.
Although McLean did not make her letter of resignation public he said he believes her July 19 apology, posed on the Cup Holder Facebook page, was sincere.
Weintraub wrote: “I would like to apologize to all those who have been offended by what was intended to be a satirical video on cyclists. It was never meant to be hurtful or harmful in anyway, I am a human being, I made a mistake, I have learned from this and ask for your forgiveness. The responses have shown me overwhelmingly just how hurtful my comments were to some and that is not at all what I intended. As soon as I knew, I removed the video immediately. The response from the cycling community has made me aware of the sport and its safety issues and challenges with drivers on the road of which I was completely unaware. My heartfelt apologies to those that have been offended and to those who face these very real challenges.”
“She did the right thing and what was best for everyone involved” by resigning said McLean.
He noted he was as outraged as the public by the video, which shows Weintraub in the passenger seat of a vehicle making disparaging remarks about cyclists as the car passes them by. She also jokes about running them over and asks the male driver of the vehicle how much it would cost for him to run a bicyclist down.
The video ends with an electronically altered image of a car striking bicyclists.
“Like you’ve never thought about it ... “ reads the caption.
Some of those critical of the video posted that the image was of a real accident that occurred in Mexico; when the driver, reportedly driving drunk, struck the bicyclists one was killed and at least 10 critically injured.
McLean said Weintraub, who was put on administrative leave Saturday, probably realized she would be unable to represent the SPPD as a reserve following the incident.
There was no mention made on the video - or on any other Weintraub commentaries - of her affiliation with the SPPD but a check of biography showed she was a police volunteer.
“She did apologize and I think it was sincere,” and McLean stressed that Weintraub’s duties were “strictly in the station, she was not in the field,” and she would never have been in the position to ticket anyone, including bicyclists.
He called her video “An error in judgment of monumental importance... but don’t hold us responsible for her views, period.”
Unfortunately, many who posted on Facebook - there’s been hundreds since Friday - did, especially after a civilian volunteer who at times updates the SPPD Facebook page dismissed early remarks about Weintraub’s video. The reply and other comments were later removed but had been copied. Weintraub’s video was also removed from YouTube but not before several people downloaded it for distribution.
Even McLean was dragged into the fray when posters started to criticize an earlier entry he made on July 11 about having a hard day and looking forward to relaxing with a cold beer, a remark they tied in to the cyclists’ controversy.
He was accused of posting the original dismissive remarks regarding Weintraub’s video and calls started to be heard for his removal.
“The Chief of Police as well as the Santa Paula Police Department did not condone this video and are extremely embarrassed by it. This video did not and does not express the views of the Santa Paula Police Department nor the Chief of Police, Steve McLean,” the agency noted in a Sunday news release.
The volunteer who posted on the Facebook page, which displays the SPPD chevron as the profile picture and poster unless otherwise identified, was also placed on suspension pending further investigation.
“Santa Paula Police has worked with cyclists in the past on special events and even just when larger groups come to town... they love Santa Paula,” said McLean.
“We’ve always been friendly and encouraged their visits,” to the city where they often dine and visit with others who love biking.
“Don’t hold us to Ms. Weintraub’s views, period,” McLean added.
Overall, said McLean, “I just want to get past this... it’s unfair to my department and our city. We have a lot of good things happening, we’re moving forward and here we go again with people trashing Santa Paula.
“Some people are trying to paint us as anti-this or anti-that, especially bicyclists that we welcome here. We love them here and we treat them well... I don’t think we’ve ever given a recreational bicyclist a ticket ever. We’re fighting crime and drug dealers.”
Santa Paula, said McLean, “Is a friendly town that has made accommodations for bicyclists,” including the Bike Trail where there are racks for riders to park and secure their bikes and visit the downtown.
“I’ve been here a year,” said McLean, “and we’ve never had an incident with a bicyclist... “