Initially, charges of racial profiling by law enforcement were brought largely by African-American drivers. But in Maricopa County, Arizona, it’s Latinos who say they’re the victims of race-based policing. Now there’s another group that says they’re being singled out by cops despite their claims they have done nothing wrong. Bikers, individuals who belong to “clubs” like the Hell’s Angels are crying foul and want their legislative representatives to do something. In Washington State, where the law enforcement community is mourning multiple officers killed in the line of duty, legislators working on the state’s House Public Safety Committee heard from scores of individuals about what they say is a travesty of justice.
The bikers, the kind who don leather and “get their motors running,” told the committee that they have been targeted by police, stopped for no apparent reason, searched, questioned and generally harassed simply because they ride motorcycles. The bikers say it’s profiling plain and simple.
They say it’s similar to charges made by predominantly young black drivers that they are singled out by police. It’s illegal to profile minorities, so it should be illegal to profile motorcycle riders, the bikers contend. “It does occur,” Rep. Steve Kirby, D-Tacoma, the sponsor of a bill to outlaw profiling of motorcyclists, told The Spokesman-Review newspaper. “It’s just wrong and it has to stop.”
The Washington State Patrol is particularly apt to pull them over. Those charges were leveled by David Devereaux, of Tacoma. He is a member of the Outsiders Motorcycle Club.
When bikers showed up last year for their annual lobbying day at the state house, a state trooper took down all their license plate numbers, Devereaux said. The bikers videotaped the trooper and posted it on YouTube to back up their claim of harassment. But Capt. Jason Berry, head of government and media relations for the State Patrol, denied that troopers profile bikers or any other group.
The agency did collect license information on all motorcycles at Black Thursday in 2009 because some outlaw bikers were “showing off colors and paraphernalia.” But Capt. Berry says that was standard practice for everyone that showed up. It was just a precaution in case “something bad were to happen,” Berry said.
When nothing did, “the information was thrown away.” In addition, the Washington State P says it has no problem with Kirby’s bill because the agency does not profile and is proud of it. Some committee members tried to flesh out major differences between various types of biker clubs.
Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, a police officer when he’s not a legislator, asked if there weren’t legal biker gangs and illegal gangs.
“Weren’t the Hells Angels running methamphetamine out of California and into the Northwest a few years back?”
But there are many types of motorcycle organizations, from Christian bikers to stockbroker bikers according to Mr. Devereaux.
The Hells Angel stereotype sells movie tickets, but it’s a fraction of the larger group.
“We’re working Americans. I’m raising two children. I’ve been married for 15 years,” he told The Spokesman-Review.