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...