Law enforcement in Winslow, Arizona is guilty of grossly mismanaging public funds by mobilizing a multi-agency patrol and surveillance operation targeting a motorcycle club for absolutely no justifiable reason. This incident is another example of police targeting motorcycle clubs with military like equipment and surveillance, even in instances where there is absolutely no reason or probable cause to believe that a crime has, or will, take place. This incident is a microcosm into an epidemic occurring in Arizona and across America. Fortunately there are possible solutions. A law addressing the issue of motorcycle profiling has proven to be an effective tool in the fight against military policing and discrimination against 1st Amendment protected associations.
I recently received a letter from John Dreyfus, a friend, a member of ALMA MC and the Arizona Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs Designated Lobbyist. The ALMA MC was targeted by surveillance and an outrageous police presence during a 3-day celebration for a new charter held September 5th-7th in Winslow, Arizona The letter reads:
“New problems, we have a new ALMA MC charter in Winslow, AZ….None of the members up there have criminal records. We had a party to celebrate them becoming full patch members and the LE presence was outrageous. Not a single arrest or traffic stop during the three days that people were partying there. More evidence…”
The Department of Public Safety, Gang Task Force, and Winslow PD were all involved in the operation. An operation taking place for absolutely no discernible reason other than to conduct massive and visible surveillance on a club that has no felons, a club committing no crimes, and no reason to believe that a crime would occur.
Dreyfus describes the surveillance. “There were unmarked vehicles. LE in body armor. And a telescoping device that we took pics of. We weren’t sure if it was intercepting phone signals or broadcasting pics they took. There is one pic of a small group of LE at the corner with the statue. It looked like they were doing the tourist thing. Taking pics with the statue at Standing On The Corner Park.”
How much does a 3-day, multi-agency, military-style operation that results in zero enforcement of the law cost in public funds? This gross mismanagement of public funds counter-acts the extremely positive economic benefits of the club’s party on the community. According to Dreyfus, “Every hotel in town was filled. Businesses saw greatly increased sales.”
Independent of economics, the discriminatory mindset driving this operation is concerning. There is no other explanation other than stereotype driving the idea that overwhelming police presence and surveillance of clubs with no criminal records or history of criminal activity is necessary or appropriate.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident in Arizona. Indeed, there has been a long history of motorcycle profiling in Arizona. For example, in 2012, while visiting Phoenix to give a profiling presentation at an Arizona Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs meeting, law enforcement targeted this political gathering with visible presence and surveillance outside the meeting. John Dreyfus immediately went outside, asked them politely what they wanted, took pictures of them, and they went away.
Again, there was absolutely zero reason to believe that a crime was occurring, or would occur, a condition that should reasonably exist before law enforcement targets a political meeting. The only reason for law enforcement presence is a discriminatory profile of motorcycle clubs generally.
Confederation meetings are attended by Christian clubs, Veterans clubs, Woman’s clubs, 1% clubs, and plain old riding clubs. Confederation meetings are solely confined to legal and legislative issues that impact the motorcycle community. There is an attorney present at every meeting. There is no justification to target these constitutionally protected political gatherings.
The virtually cost-free solution is within grasp. The pattern of evidence proves that profiling is widespread, unconstitutional, and a gross misuse of public funds. This pattern of evidence creates an irrefutable argument for a law requiring all law enforcement in Arizona to adopt a written policy condemning motorcycle profiling and integrating the issue into basic training.