8 Ball In The Wind

Monday, June 29, 2015

Profiling: The Trampling Of Our Rights

When authorities, usually law enforcement, use a generalized concept that members of a particular group or class are more likely to commit crimes, that is profiling.  Everyone, I am sure would admit that singling out any group or class of people to be monitored because they are more likely to commit a crime than another group is wrong.  To claim that; Hispanics are more likely to be thieves.  Blacks are more likely to be drug dealers, or Catholic priests are more likely to be pedophiles, is not only wrong but violates our nations Constitutional liberties.  I don't think anyone would agree that it is wrong to condemn an entire group, or class of people for the wrong doings of a few individuals.  Stereotypes are not how law enforcement should be managed and maintained.  Being a member of a group does not make you a criminal.

However, it seems there is still in America, one group that main stream media and law enforcement have no problem stereotyping and profiling because of their appearance. Because in forty-nine states in the Union, it is still legal to do so.  Also, it raises broadcast ratings.  Even though doing so violates the First Amendment Rights of Freedom to Associate, and Freedom of Speech.  What group is that you ask?  Bikers.  Many in the media and law enforcement throw all motorcyclists into the same basket as the characters from the television show Sons Of Anarchy.  Anyone riding a bike, wearing leather vests with patches on them is a "gang member", or belongs to a "motorcycle gang".  It doesn't matter whether the person riding the motorcycle is a minister, a fire fighter, a nurse, or even a state legislator.  If you are riding a motorcycle you are perceived by law enforcement as a criminal.  Not for any action or deed, but because of what you wear and ride.  Thankfully, in Washington State this has been illegal since 2012 when the nations first motorcycle anti-profiling bill was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee.

However, despite this law there are still incidents of  profiling in Washington State.  Although reports of such incidents have dropped by almost 90% since 2012.  Other parts of the country however are still subject to discrimination and bias among law enforcement.  With many agencies making no distinction between; independent motorcyclists, motorcycle ministries members, armed forces and veterans motorcycle clubs, and so called "outlaw" or 1%er motorcycle clubs.  All are under suspicion not because of deeds, but because of appearance.  Appearance is not a just cause for law enforcement to have probable cause for stopping, detaining, or arresting an individual.

Since the May 17th "incident" at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, many law enforcement agencies have become much more open in their profiling of motorcyclists.  Whether they are able to even distinguish between an independent rider and a member of a motorcycle club is irrelevant.  Membership in an organization does not mean you are committing a crime, does not mean you are a criminal, does not mean you are a violent person.  As an example, after the shootings in Waco, the police there issued a warning to all motorcyclists to stay off the streets.  Why?  Because police could not tell the difference between "law abiding riders" and criminals.  So everyone on a motorcycle was to be treated like a criminal.  Even the local Harley-Davidson dealership was barricaded and the street closed for several days as a safety measure by police.  That would be like closing the local Chevrolet dealership because there was a shooting at a General Motors car enthusiasts political event.  No one would have accepted such a closure without some form of due process.  But motorcyclists are being portrayed as a criminal class by law enforcement and main stream media it seems.

In other states, outside of Texas, law enforcement has begun to use this incident to put pressure on establishments that host motorcycle club gatherings and events.  Adopting policies to coerce business owners to no longer allow club "colors" or association membership patches in their establishments.  This has met with mixed results across the country.  Law enforcement has even used the public misconception of motorcycle clubs promoted by media such as Sons Of Anarchy, and other Hollywood productions based on imaginative story telling, to encourage citizens to report any sighting of motorcycle club members.  Law enforcement is now painting all motorcycle club members, and all motorcyclists in general with the brush of dangerous criminality.

Most citizens have no knowledge of the motorcycling community in general, and the motorcycle club community in particular beyond what they see on television and in the movies.  Alerting citizens to report any motorcycle club member they see to law enforcement will do little more than create an climate of informantism among the population.  Which further degrades the Right to travel freely which every American claims  for themselves.  Yet bikers are different, bikers are violent criminals who need to be caught and convicted.  Even if that means trampling on the Constitution to do so.  If law enforcement attempted to use such tactics against virtually any other class of people in America, the hue and cry would be loud and vociferous.  

What would happen if law enforcement agencies began publicly issuing warnings to citizens to report any sightings of Asians for example in their communities?  If law enforcement is successful in their attempts to profile motorcyclists as they have begun to do more blatantly since the incident in Waco, are any of our Constitutional Rights truly safe?  While no one who wasn't there in the Twin Peaks parking lot really knows for sure what happened, but what sort of lunacy is it to say that everyone of the 177 people arrested after the incident were involved.  It is just as false to assume every member of a motorcycle club, especially those with thousands of members to be a criminal.  

Sadly, almost every group in society has members who are criminals.  But to profile the entire group based on the actions of a few members is ludicrous.  Should all Naval aviators be considered sexual predators because of the action of a few at a Tail Hook Association convention in Las Vegas a few years ago?  Or should all Catholic Priests be forced to register as sex offenders because of the highly publicized actions of some of Catholic clergy?  

All these concepts are profiling.  All go against the most American of precepts that state that a person is innocent until proven guilty.  That a person cannot be guilty due to their association is a cornerstone of our society.  Profiling, in all its various forms; racial, gender, sexual orientation, or associative are all wrong and tramples upon all of our Civil Rights.  We must unite against the efforts of those who would so misconstrue and misinterpret the laws against any class or group.  As soon as they are successful doing so to one group, all the others who the government or law enforcement sees as a threat or undesirable, will soon find themselves the target for profiling.

Keep that in mind the next time you hear someone say bikers are criminals.  Or bikers are this, or that.  Insert the name of any other class or group of people in those claims, and see for yourself just how degrading and ridiculous those claims are.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Helmet Impact Velocities Not What They Seem

DOT helmet test impacts & velocities

Take a look at the diagram above.  It shows the impact velocities that a DOT motorcycle helmet needs to attenuate in order to comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218.  Take a close look and think about what the image shows.  

FMVSS-218 requires two impacts onto a "spherical anvil" at a velocity of 11.62 mph.  That impact velocity is obtained by dropping the helmet from a height of 54.33 inches.  In real world equivalents; while you are sitting on your bike, at a stand still, fall over and strike your helmet on the curb.

FMVSS-218 also requires two impacts onto a "flat anvil" at a velocity of 13.4 mph.  That impact is obtained by dropping the helmet from a height of 72.05 inches above the "flat anvil".  In real world equivalents; you pull your helmet off the six foot high closet shelf, and it slips through your fingers, falling to the floor.

That is the extent of impact protection a DOT helmet is required to provide.  Yet an extremely high percentage fails to do so every year.  Part of the problem is that there is no requirement for helmet manufacturers to test their helmets prior to being allowed to "self-certify" that their helmets meet the requirements of FMVSS-218.  The DOT allows manufacturers, virtually all of whom are from outside the U.S., to "self-certify" that their helmets meet the standard with only the a "good faith belief" that their helmets would pass testing.  

In other words, the motorcycle helmets the legislature of Washington State forces motorcyclists to wear only depend on the "good faith belief" of foreign manufacturers that their helmets will indeed perform as required.  Only if the make and model of helmet is randomly chosen for testing by an independent laboratory, will it be known whether or not it actually meets the standard.  Between 1980 and 2008, over 61% of helmets that manufacturers had "self-certified" as meeting the DOT FMVSS-218 standard actually FAILED to do so.  Out of 1,540 helmet models tested during that period, 945 FAILED to meet the standard.

To quote Ed Becker from the SNELL Foundation; "Our standards call for impacts with a velocity of about 17.3 mph followed by a second impact at the same point on the helmet at about 14.8 mph.  A helmet that can take one of our headforms through these two impacts unscathed could probably* handle a single impact somewhat greater than 17.3 mph, but certainly no more than 23 mph.

DOT tests apply two impacts as well, both at around 13.4 mph, implying a single impact capacity greater than 13.4 mph, but certainly no more than 19 mph."

Those impact velocities do not take into account any forward velocity of the motorcycle.  If a fall from 72 inches (6 ft) equates to 13.4 mph, it would only require an increase to about 120 inches (10 ft) to reach the 19-23 mph that SNELL feels is the maximum impact velocity a motorcycle helmet is able to withstand.

Again quoting Ed Becker from SNELL; "Most head strikes are glancing blows.  The most common accident is the biker is thrown from the bike. falls to the road surface and scrubs off his cruising speed sliding along the roadway.  The impact velocity is not his cruising speed, but but just the downward component picked up in the fall."*

So, for glancing blows while "sliding along the roadway" helmets may be of benefit in protecting the head from abrasions and injuries attirbutable to "sliding along the roadway".  However, for direct impact velocites, helmets are recognized not to be nearly as effective.

To quote Professor Harry Hurt (author of probably the most in-depth traffic safety study of the 20th Century, the "Hurt Report"); "When impact speeds get up to 25-30 mph, there isn't a helmet in the world that is going to save you."

Washington State needs to join the majority of other states in the nation, and allow its citizens to exercise their right to choose for themselves what is the proper amount of protection for riding at any given time.  It does not mean you will always have to wear a helmet, or that you won't be allowed to wear a helmet.  Simply that each individual will be allowed to decide for themselves if they wish to wear a helmet on that particular ride, or not.  Think about it, and let your legislators know how you feel, with the facts to back up your statements.  I'll be posting more information in the coming weeks.  Together we can make a change in the way
we ride.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

* emphasis added by this writer to drive home the point being made in the statements provided.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Civil Wrongs In Waco

I have been trying to understand what is going on in Waco, Texas.

It is true, I do have questions about the shootings there.  However the information that has been released by law enforcement is much too vague, and contradictory to give any real picture of what happened.  The actual shootings, and what triggered them is of much less concern to me than the aftermath.  While I have my own ideas of what may have occurred, I wasn't there, and do not know for sure.

What concerns me most, is the ongoing incarceration of well over 100 people on extraordinary bond amounts.  This is now five weeks since the incident.  It seems quite strange that there has been so little movement into the investigation of who was involved.  The idea that 177 people arrested that day prior to a publicly promoted political meeting, during a drag net mass arrest, all were engaged in a criminal activity is mind boggling.  Where is the evidence that provides probable cause for an arrest?

A statement made by the Prosecuting Attorney that those arrested aren't "acting like victims" because they chose to exercise their Fifth Amendment Right to remain silent, only adds fuel to those voices that say law enforcement in Waco that day was extremely overzealous and is now trying to control all information relating to those arrested.  If an innocent person suddenly finds themselves in the right place, at the wrong time, and is caught in a mass dragnet arrest the first thing law enforcement should tell each person placed under arrest is that they have; "...a Right to remain silent.  Anything you say can, and will be used against you in a court of law."  .Under those circumstances I would exercise my Right to remain silent as well.  It isn't what you say, but what the law enforcement officer puts in their report that you said, or captures on audio/video recording (where possible), that they use against you.

Information I have obtained from members of the National Coalition Of Motorcyclists (NCOM), and the Confederation Of Clubs (COC), there has not been any violent incident like this in the multi-decade history of the organizations.  Yet law enforcement was pressuring the management of Twin Peaks days prior to the meeting to  refuse to hold it there.  Instead of understanding and accepting that the Confederation Of Clubs & Independents in Texas was a political/legislative organization, they continued to claim it was merely a front for a meeting over 1% Club recruitment and turf disputes.  Which is not at all what the COC is about.  I have been to a few COC meetings here in Washington, and inter-Club business is left outside the door.

I find the fact that law enforcement was on scene (with SWAT members) prior to the incident, and expecting trouble, where trouble had never occurred before more than a bit troublesome.  It would appear their "intelligence" bordered on clairvoyance.  Yet it is still taking more than a month and a half for them to gain an understanding of who was truly engaged in criminal activity, and who was just on the scene?  That in itself I find troubling.

To give a less vitriolic picture to the concept of what has happened, let us change one factor in this equation.  Instead of motorcycle club members, imagine rival NFL team fans, getting into a heated dispute that somehow turns deadly, resulting in 9 deaths ("at least" 4 of which police admit to causing themselves).  Then 177 others in the area are all arrested for being involved in the deadly criminal activity because they were fans  and were wearing identifying insignia.  Would you find that an intolerable violation of Civil Rights?  Guilt by association is wrong, we all know it.  But that is what appears to have been at the root of the mass arrests in Waco.

The First Amendment Right to freely associate is a fundamental Right of all Americans.  As well as the First Amendment Right of Free Speech.  These are just a few of the Rights that Waco law enforcement seem to be disregarding, and trampling on.  Also, the Fourth Amendment Right to be secure from search and seizure without a warrant.  A "fill in the blanks" form should not be considered a proper warrant for an individuals arrest.  Using the fact that citizens exercised their Fifth Amendment Right to remain silent against them is counter to the reason the Fifth Amendment was written in the first place.  Then there is the Fourteenth Amendments "Equal Protection" clause.  This was also ignored, as only motorcyclists, on scene for a publicly promoted political event were arrested and giving an extraordinary bond of $1 million.  Clearly this was done with a punitive purpose.

The fact that Waco law enforcement continues to refer to those arrested as "gang members" also seems to add weight to the contention that this is a massive profiling incident.  That everyone was arrested because they were a motorcyclist.  Whether they were a minister, retired law enforcement, an attorney, fire fighter, EMT or housewife doesn't seem to make a difference...they are all being called "gang members", and being treated like members of a street gang.  It is better to allow some criminals to escape justice than to incorrectly incarcerate one innocent person.  Yet this basic premise seems to have completely eluded the law enforcement community in Waco.

I simply cannot imagine the American people standing for such outrageous violation of Civil Rights as we have seen over the last six weeks in Waco.  Especially when the vast majority were only on scene to attend a political event.  For one more example of how disturbingly overzealous law enforcement has been regarding this matter; within hours of the incident at Twin Peaks restaurant, the law enforcement in the area barricaded the Harley Davidson dealership.  Forcing its closure for three days.  Even though it was not even near the location of the shootings.  Talk about complete anti-motorcycle bias.  I cannot even comprehend the rationalization that must have been twisted to shut down a business in that manner.

Think about it.  Are your Freedoms secure?

Catch you on the road sometime...

Spring Opener 2015

The 37th Annual ABATE of Washington Spring Opener is now in the history books.  With great weather almost all weekend, it was a blast to remember.    Even dealing with a couple of bikes that were having issues, all in all it was a good time.  North Kitsap Chapter did an outstanding job with the bike show.  Even though I won 1st place in the Rat Bike class, I'm not at all biased.  Two of our local ABATE chapter members also cam in 2nd place in each of their classes.

Tacoma Chapter hosted the bike games, which were both fun and exciting.  The brought in several different games this year.  All of them were a kick to watch.  Even the slow races were exciting, as Coski won showing some true skill keeping that old Shovel from moving even after the competition had already lost out..

The music was as good as usual.  With Hells Belles rocking the bowl Saturday night.  The bottom of the bowl was filled with dancers, as the sides we filled with spectators enjoying the show.  After they finished rocking out, the raffles took place.  Someone named Jean in Vancouver won the 2015 Street Glide Special, and the two Ruger .45's went to another member of Elk Country who only bought one ticket.

It was a good time for sure.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
The "Shot Ski"

Olympia Chapter meets the "Shot Ski"
BSA 250
Shovelhead Chopper
custom Sportster
1997 Wide Glide
Gypsy Rose in the Bike Show

(Left to Right)  T 2nd place Rat Class, 8 Ball 1st Place Rat Class, Jim 2nd Place Touring Class.
Ping Pong Ball Drop
Keg Roll
Hot Dog Bite
Hells Belles rocking the house!!
Maybe we'll see you at the 38th Annual ABATE of Washington Spring Opener.  i know i am already planning on being there.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Monday, June 1, 2015

Washington States Motorcycling Anti-Profiling Law Needs Some Teeth

The situation in Waco, Texas, has really brought home how desperately we here in Washington State need to put some teeth into our Motorcycle Anti-Profiling Law.  The widespread and blanket arrests of virtually anyone wearing motorcycle "paraphernalia" in Waco should be an eye opening shock to all those who think the law passed here in Washington in 2012 doesn't matter.  Many in Washington law enforcement consider the Anti-Profiling law to be meaningless.

That is why they still think it is alright to ban Americans wearing "motorcycle club/association, and support patches and clothing" from events.  As was done at the Smoke Out/Choke Out in Yakima, Washington last July.  That is, until enough of a hue and cry was raised across the state that the City's Police Chief finally backed down, and rescinded the ban.  That is why, county and state fairs, and other "public events" will take the admittance fee from "bikers", then once they are inside security will come and tell them to remove their vests and any Club paraphernalia, or leave.  With no refund of their admittance price.  The only reason they are being told to vacate the premises is because they are wearing motorcycle club insignia, and patches.

Or stopping every rider in a pack riders, then photographing club patches and attempting to gather 'intelligence' against the Clubs as they run each person for wants and warrants, and detaining the entire group on site.  Until finally releasing those that aren't wearing any Club insignia stating that law enforcement was conducting an "investigation", but not stating what the investigation was in regards to.  The only reason those individuals were released was, as they were told; "We don't have anything to hold you on."  Yet eventually all the members of the group were released, and allowed to proceed as they were.  However only the Club members in the group were given a citation for some vague, minor traffic infraction.

While our Anti-Profiling Law states it is illegal to "profile" an individual because of several characteristics.  There is no real motivation for law enforcement to obey the law.  If they break it, there is nothing that is going to happen to them beyond a possible slap on the wrist.  Only a long drawn out Civil case is left as a recourse against the law enforcement agency and officer who violated the law.

Photo by Rod Aydelotte, Waco-Tribune Herald

In Texas, more than 170 bikers were arrested for no reason other than attending a publicly promoted political event, when violence broke out.  Even though almost half of the fatalities were cause by law enforcement.  The real reason they were arrested?  They were bikers, and to Waco PD, that meant they were members of 'criminal biker gangs'.  Members of 'organized crime', bad people who exercised their Fifth Amendment Right to remain silent, and "didn't act like victims".  All because they were bikers and wore cuts and patches.  Washington State needs to put some teeth into its "Motorcycle Anti-Profiling" law so that this sort of thing cannot happen here.  Take a look at this photo above.  That is only a small part of those arrested in Waco.  Can any of you imagine what it would be like if there was violence at some event here in Washington, and every biker there was questioned and then arrested felony charges because they were bikers?

If you are like me, and want to see Washingtons motorcycle community better protected, then contact your legislators and tell them you want our Motorcycle Anti-Profiling law to have some effective deterrence to law enforcement violating the law.  Even though the law was passed with relatively great fanfare in 2012, many law enforcement agencies in Washington ignore the law because it won't do anything to them if they violate it.  That is why there have been incidents like the ones in Yakima, the Tri-Cities, Puyallup, and elsewhere.  As it is now, at worst, law enforcement is liable to receive a slap on the wrist for violating the Anti-Profiling law.  When law enforcement pays little or no attention to a law, and continues to violate it because they feel it "doesn't mean anything", it is time to put some meaning into it.  If that means replacing a slap on the wrist with a hickory axe handle to the kneecaps, so be it.  May, just maybe, law enforcement in Washington will begin to actually abide by the laws they are sworn to enforce.  It is up to us to get our legislators to move forward on this issue.  Without the motorcycle community pushing them, they will be happy to sit on their laurels and be proud of passing the first Motorcycle Anti-Profiling Law in the US.  Now we need to give this toothless law some dentures so it has enough of a bite that law enforcement will take it seriously.

Catch you on the road sometime...