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Digging Through Saddlebags

Digging Through Saddlebags

Yeah, it may well happen if you come across a motorcycle-only checkpoint.

I’ve written previously about how motorcycle safety outweighs individual liberty as state and local governments have begun to implement motorcycle-only checkpoints that unfairly target motorcyclists for inspection by law enforcement officers.

Specifically it’s called the “Motorcycle Law Enforcement Demonstration Grant” (DTNH22-10-R-00386) and the motorcycle-only checkpoints are funded by grants given out by the federal government, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  That’s correct.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is offering federal funds to expand the practice of creating motorcycle-only checkpoints by law enforcement agencies.

Initially started in New York State, the process involves setting-up checkpoints where only motorcycles are pulled over. Law enforcement officers will check for U.S. DOT-compliant helmets, legal exhaust systems, and compliance with licensing, registration and inspection regulations.  And they may decide to dig through your saddlebags!

What can you do?

Petition-PhotoSign this petition which calls for the cessation of the NHTSA’s direct and indirect funding of the motorcycle-only checkpoints through its grants and other measures, and asks that the laws for vehicle conformity and passenger safety be applied equally to motorcycles and automobiles alike.

Why This Petition Site?  The White House’s “We the People” website is the only one that sends a message directly to the president.  Once 25,000 signatures are reach, the petition is put in front of President Barack Obama, where he has to officially respond to the petition, which could include directing the NHTSA from funding motorcycle-only checkpoints.

I Live In A State With-Out Motorcycle-Only Check Points, Why Should I Bother To Sign?  Because there are a large number of motorcyclists in the U.S., yet overall our passion is shared by only a small portion of the population. This makes it relatively easy for laws, and those who enforce those laws, to target motorcyclists unfairly.  The motorcycling community needs to come together, regardless of how this one issue affects you, in order to ensure that the basic rights of motorcyclists everywhere are assured.

This Won’t Change Anything, So I’m Not Going To Waste My Time.  You might be right, but putting the issue in front of The President of the U.S. might do something, and if nothing else, it shows that the motorcycle-riding community is an active participant in what occurs in Washington D.C. and in the local legislatures. Doing nothing truly means that nothing will change.

Crap, I Have To Register To Sign This.  Are You Kidding Me?  The White House’s “We the People” website is the only site that sends a message directly to the president, and if there are enough signatures, the president has to formally respond to the petition.

I Don’t Want The Government To Have My Email Address.  Ahh… right, like they don’t already know where you live…

Please take the time and consider signing the petition.

Photos courtesy of Baggers Magazine and The White House “We The People” website.

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Discriminatory Motorcycle Checkpoint

The year was 1910 and the charter of the city (where I currently reside) empowered city officials to enforce disparate, and what now seems quaint-sounding regulations.  Here are a couple of examples:

“To prescribe the width of tires of all vehicles.”

“To regulate and prevent public criers, advertising notices, steam whistles, the ringing of bells and the playing of bands.”

It seems harmless enough, but jump ahead 100 years to 2010 and cash strapped states are now targeting motorcyclists.  Huh?

That’s correct.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is offering federal funds to expand the practice of creating motorcycle-only checkpoints by law enforcement agencies.  Specifically it’s called the “Motorcycle Law Enforcement Demonstration Grant” (DTNH22-10-R-00386).

Initially started in New York State, the process involves setting-up checkpoints where only motorcycles are pulled over. Law enforcement officers then check for U.S. DOT-compliant helmets, legal exhaust systems, and compliance with licensing, registration and inspection regulations. The NHTSA program would also collect information on high-motorcycle-crash-incident areas and citations would be issued for any violations discovered.  Law enforcement officials in New York have defended the program as a safety measure to decrease motorcycle crashes, injuries and fatalities – the extra public $$ is just a bonus –  yet there is no proof of its effectiveness.

But wait… there’s more.  The NHTSA is now seeking up to five other law enforcement agencies to participate in this practice and is offering from $70,000 to $350,000 in federal funding.  I wonder how long until one of the states in the northwest opts in?

Basically our freedom to ride is under attack because of Federally funded discriminatory motorcycle checkpoint stops that don’t require any probable cause other than riding a motorcycle!

What can you do?
As of July 2010, no NHTSA awards have been awarded, but you can contact your state senators and representatives and complain that the NHTSA is using our tax dollars to fund a program that targets bikers. Unlike Arizona where the law doesn’t specify a type of person, but “may” result in racial profiling, in this case the target is defined and profiling would be, in fact, it’s clearly a part of the program. It may be unconstitutional and at minimum is a waste of our tax dollars.

If you prefer the AMA has developed an online email/letter to Administrator Strickland urging him to suspend the grant program until profiling questions have been addressed.

Photo courtesy of NY Police.

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DPSST Tactical Village

I arrive at the mock Rogue River Bar.  It could very well be your average motorcycle enthusiast bar, complete with pool tables, fridge and beer taps.  It’s all part of “Tactical Village” – a sprawling complex with faux buildings, roadways, cars, buses and the typical neighborhood debris you’d find in any urban environment.  This area was also referred to as Scenario Village which as the name implies is for various training scenarios to simulate real-world incidents.

Tactical supervisor Capt. Ed Thompson provided instruction as he led the group of exercises.  Today the press participants would be acting as a police officer in various situations.  We were briefed on gun safety, shooting and while the Glock’s only fired paint-pellet bullets they did have enough velocity to sting and leave substantial marks.

Demonstration by Lt. Daryl Tate (L) and Officer Jason Brown (R)

I’ve experienced confusion at motorcycle rallies when ask to respond to conflicting instructions from multiple law enforcement officials, but nothing prepared me for my first “routine” patrol stop.  The patrol car radio blasted a somewhat inaudible message about the ’96 Dodge Stratus with Idaho plates that I had pulled over for a traffic violation was involved in an arm robbery – I cautiously exited the patrol car collecting my thoughts as a rather large man (~300 pounds) exits the Dodge on the driver side – I shout out to stay in the automobile, the man doesn’t comply – I shout again for the man to stop, but he continues to walk toward me and the patrol car with one hand in a back pocket – I notice he has an angry and aggressive physical demeanor.   Now I’m using all the techniques from earlier in the day… defining the threat (Intent; Means; Opportunity) when at about 20 feet from the police car I see the man pull a gun.  My first thought was WTF? this can’t be happening.  In addition I had tunnel vision and didn’t see his partner exit the scene…I was so focused on that gun.  Having no police gun/holster experience didn’t help and my attempt to pull my firearm was delayed by safety snaps — Gunshots sounded.  The officer (me) was hit by 4 paint ball pellets.  No blood was spilled, but I was dead in less than 20 seconds!  It was about that time when one of the instructors stated “experience is the knowledge you needed 1 minute ago”… a bit flipant, but I’ve got to give ‘em that one.

Officer Jason Brown (L) Explains Scenario in Tactical Village

For several hours we responded to chaotic, dangerous or unpredictable situations in an effort to serve others. The exercises really hit home and made me re-think law enforcement’s role and the second guessing of intentions. With sincere respect to families of people shot by police, including Aaron Campbell’s, what most people killed by police have in common is that they were running from the law, threatening to harm someone or failing to obey police commands. That doesn’t mean they deserve to be shot, but it does complicate an officer’s job and forces the type of split-second decisions police make.   I believe Capt. Rau stated during training that “Nobody wins these situations, you survive them.”  We continued into the afternoon with the academy’s interactive video training program called MYLO (Multiple Interactive Learning Objectives) which used a Glock laser firearm vs. paint-pellets.   It’s a computerized model capable of running hundreds of scenario’s ranging from domestic disturbance to school shootings.  The situations are intense and life like even if displayed on a video screen.

Tactical Village

At the end of the day I was tired from the adrenaline rush and participating in a number of these scenarios (I was hit so many times I looked like a member in the Blue Man Group!).  Near the end of the day we received an overview from Michael Slauson (Sr. Assistant Attorney General, Oregon DOJ) on SB 111 (2007) and requirements for each county (36 in total) to have a deadly force plan which outlines a number of minimum requirements around police officer mental health and making information available to the public.  In all there were more than 25 people involved in delivering this training.  Unfortunately the mainstream media/press turnout was dismal.  Why?  Fox News (TV12), Albany, Corvallis (Gazettetimes.com) and a local neighborhood paper called The Skanner participated.  While the small class size made for high-quality individual training the absence and the opportunity for the mainstream press to help influence perceptions was a disappointment.

After all the scenarios I wasn’t so sure who would want to be a police officer?  Why would anyone be willing to serve, given the beatings the bureau gets from a rush-to-judgment public and the second-guessing of officers. Instead of officer retraining, maybe we should talk about citizen retraining, so critics will at least wait until they have all the facts of a case before calling in the high-profile, paid-to-incite activists.

Part 1 is HERE.

Tactical Village photo courtesy of Gazettetimes.com, other photos taken by author on scene.

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DPSST Admin Building

Earlier this week I attended a day-long training session at the Oregon Public Safety Academy (DPSST) about Deadly Force used in making an arrest.

It took some persistence, but I was able to convince the Department of Public Safety that independent bloggers DO have a community voice and should be included along with “mainstream” media. To that end I was afforded the opportunity to fully participate in the Salem event and want to provide a major shout-out to Cmdr. Cameron Campbell and PIO and OSP Trooper Lt. Gregg Hastings!

So why was I there and what’s the 411?

You may recall last month’s fatal shooting of Aaron M. Campbell by a Portland police officer which sparked intense scrutiny on the use of deadly force.  The 25-year-old African-American was shot and killed by a white police officer after he emerged from a Northeast Portland apartment where officers had been called to perform a welfare check on a suicidal, armed man.  The shooting prompted national attention, including public protests and marches by members of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, and a high profile drive-by visit to Portland by none other than the infamous Rev. Jesse Jackson.  I’m not going to cover all the details and anyone who wants to have an opinion about this police shooting really needs to read the nearly 500 pages of grand jury transcripts.  Or if you prefer The Oregonian can provide summary information HERE.

DPSST Admin Building (Back)

The law enforcement agencies were quick to realize that when a police officer shoots an unarmed person because the officer fears for her/his life – this is a huge contributor to the tension and distrust that the public might feel on the streets – so it prompted the Oregon Police Trainers to offer the media some unique training to learn about the realities in use-of-force incidents.  Basically in 8 hours we received what police officers receive during the 16 week training program.

Not surprisingly, a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp survey found that 56% of Americans think the government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to their rights and freedoms.  And with that, in some communities, there is a deep-seated distrust of police and a fear that interaction with them has the potential to turn violent.

Yes, I’m white and feel that police are here to protect me and work for me.  I can’t represent or fully appreciate through a racial lens what African-American people feel.  I can say that as a motorcycle enthusiast I’ve experienced law enforcement arrogance that allows an armed professional to be held less responsible than a typical citizen to control motorcyclists or rally crowds and make them stay “in their place.”  That mentality comes from people who believe that their time is more valuable than ours. It comes from an arrogance that says that our actions are supposed to make their lives easier, not the other way around.

Then I spent two hours in a class room with Lorraine Anglemier (Deputy DA and Judge) getting a comprehensive overview on the use of force and Oregon statues and my views started to evolve.  The conversation went well beyond typical discussions of force continuums or matrixes.  The focus was on how the use of force must be understood in a comprehensive manner to ensure proper force decision making.  She covered statutory authority and limits, State and federal case law, prevention and tactical consideration.  We were reminded of the Bill of Rights and the 4th Amendment along with the Oregon equivalent (Article 1, Section 9).  Then came State v. Bates, 304 OR519 (1987) followed by Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989) and how excessive force is analyzed (deadly or not) under the 4th Amendment’s “objective reasonableness” standard.  Then we dissected the “Graham Factors” and whether the totality of circumstances justifies a particular sort of action.  Yeah, it was heady stuff and as a person who has trouble with a motorcycle rental agreement this had my head severely spinning.

After another 30 minute presentation by Capt. Raymond Rau on the physical effects of being in a high-stress situation and the traumatic effects of being involved in a shooting I made my way down to the “Tactical Village” … I’m fitted with face protection, a bullet proof vest, holster, a Glock firearm and extra clips/bullets (paint balls) to undertake my urban training scenario’s … I kept replaying what Ms. Angelmier stated… the standard “reasonableness at the moment” applies not with 20/20 hindsight in my head.

This is a multi-post article… Part 2 HERE on Tactical Village.

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DenverColorado.  Well known for its magnificent scenery of mountains, rivers and plains.

Harley-Davidson management determined that the Rocky Mountain region with 53 peaks above 14K feet was the perfect place to hold the Summer Dealer Meeting in the Gold Rush mining town of – Denver. Later this week (July 25th) dealers will get revved up to ride the new 2010 models and discuss next year’s sales strategies.  At the same time Denver merchants will all be smiling as they enjoy a big boost from the ~1000 H-D reps and company personnel attending the meetings who will open wallets and infuse significant $$ into the local economy.

Wait!  Wasn’t Denver the city that passed one of the most unfriendly ordinances against motorcycle noise?!  Sure enough the city leaders passed a stringent ordinance (Chapter 36 of municipal code) to keep motorcycle “noise” at or below 82 decibels.  Most non-stock Harley’s idle at about 102 decibels with aftermarket exhaust pipes!  I’m not advocating obnoxious noise, but the ordinance also requires motorcycles made after 1982 to carry an EPA compliance seal or sticker displayed on the exhaust pipes verifying that the pipes have not been modified and are in compliance with the ordinance.  Essentially it’s stock exhaust or literally pay the consequence.

Not to worry — the Denver police have gone through extensive “exhaust sound training” to enforce the new ordinance.  Sure enough, 9News.com reported that an officer will make the determination if a motorcycle is louder than what motorcycles “should sound like” based on their experience and training and will initiate a traffic stop to inspect for the EPA compliance stamp.  Good grief –  reading that made me take a moment of pause and reflect on the legal system…  I could rant on about boom boxes, helicopters flying over neighborhoods, trash/waste trucks at 4:30am, high-pitched exhaust on imports, construction noise and festival events with loud music, but won’t.  It’s common knowledge that a lot of bikers (many who are affluent business people) have voiced opposition and totally avoid Denver now…and taking their $$ with them to other biker friendly locations.

The ordinance clearly is an attempt to limit one specific group in the motorcycle community and I’m sure there may be some quieter neighborhoods as a result.  But, how ironic that Harley-Davidson would compensate a city that obviously finds motorcycles just plain intolerable.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

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inauguration_hdAs you likely know the presidential inauguration is coming up on Tuesday, January 20th.    

Harley-Davidson of Frederick, MD has been busy working for months preparing 12 motorcycles that will lead the parade.  The motorcycles are part of the famous “Power V”, a v-formation that leads the inaugural parade through the streets of Washington, D.C. as folks from around the world watch.  The bikes are 2009 FLHTP Electra Glides with oversized 103 cu in motors and are the lead bikes in the 50 motorcycle inaugural parade.  The bikes are used exclusively for escort and security duty in the DC Metro Police department.

With auto sales on the skid and the ink on the General Motors bail-out loan check barely dry, President-elect Obama will be ridin’ in style with an all new 2009 armored Cadillac Presidential Limousine.  Fitted with an increased viewing area from the completely sealed interior (to ward off chemical attack), it has larger windows and better visibility for the new first family.  But I’ve digressed…

The Harley motorcycles arrived in Frederick last October as white motorcycles and white side crates.  The dealer then added sidecar, decals, lights, fans and a lot of labor to make it all work.  The price tag for the 12 motorcycles was about $26,000 for each vehicle.  They were built at Harley’s largest manufacturing facility – Springettsbury Township Plant – and customized by Frederick’s with unique radio brackets, wiring harnesses and flag brackets.  One unique data and selling point is that Harley is the only maker of police pursuit motorcycles that have sidecar attachments.

Nothing provides a symbol of Americana like a Harley-Davidson “V” formation parade.  Congrats.

Photo taken at Flamingo in Laughlin, NV.

 

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From the movie Righteous Kill the tag line is “There’s Nothing Wrong With A Little Shooting As Long As the Right People Get Shot“…sure that’s Hollywood, but it seems this could be applied to the law enforcement investigation of Seattle Detective Ron Smith whose felony assault charges for shooting a member of the Hells Angels motorcycle club in Sturgis were dismissed yesterday.

Dropped because as Jesse Sondreal (Meade County State Attorney) states:

“the investigation that I have reviewed indicates he (Smith) was assaulted and it was premeditated.”  The investigation established that Detective Smith was defending himself from a violent pre-meditated attack and he responded in a manner which was neither excessive nor unreasonable under the circumstances.

DeNiro Target Range

DeNiro Target Range

While the case illustrates reserving final judgment until all facts are examined it leaves some unanswered questions about how much, if any, the Sturgis incident was influenced by Smith’s testimony in a Hell’s Angel federal racketeering and murder trial in Seattle last year which sent several former and current members of the motorcycle “club” to prison ranging from seven years to life without parole. Or how much the decision to dismiss the assault charges were based on the lack of cooperation of the HAMC who wouldn’t testify before the grand jury?

The Seattle Times (Jennifer Sullivan) reports HERE that Court records and police testimony indicate Smith has clashed with another Hells Angel back in 2005.  Authorities filed charges alleging that Anthony James Magnesi, a member of the Washington Nomads chapter of the Hells Angels, had threatened Smith over the phone.  The end result from an internal investigation dismissed misdemeanor charges filed against Magnesi and Smith was referred to his supervisor for a training issue.  Much more on the Magnesi clashes HERE.

Detective Smith will return to full active duty (he was on administrative leave pending results) and obviously the Seattle Police Officers Guild is happy with the outcome and issued a press release HERE.

For more background information look at:

  1. Northwest Harley Blog Archive | Iron Pigs Ride The Northwest
  2. Northwest Harley Blog Archive | When Iron Pigs Fly
  3. Northwest Harley Blog Archive | Sturgis Ends With First Shooting In 20 Years
  4. NEW – Northwest Harley Blog Archive | Behind The Scenes Of The Sturgis Shooting
  5. NEW – Northwest Harley Blog Archive | Cash Is The Icing On Iron Pigs HR218 Cupcake

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit conflicted and feeling this outcome is anti-climatic.  Does this mean the Iron Pigs won’t return to Sturgis next year?  Can the motorcycle events industry afford yet another motorcycle “club” clash?

Operator, I need Mr. Happy.  Now!

Update: November 18, 2008 – Weapons charges dropped.  See HERE for more info.

Update: May 7, 2010 – Detective Ronald Smith has filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle and the Seattle Police Department.  Even though all charges were dropped the suit alleges the department disparaged him and negligently provided false information that led to his indictment on a perjury charge.  This was an embarrassment and the lawsuit contends his reputation was harmed.

Photo courtesy of the movie Righteous Kill web site.

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