Almost no one is aware of one of the most outrageous examples of police corruption targeting bikers in history. Although the story reached the major newspapers, this happened before the 24/7 news cycle or the World Wide Web existed. This is a story of illegal warrants, planted evidence, dirty cops and attempted murder. This is also a glimpse into the historical mindset of law enforcement relating to motorcycle clubs and a clear demonstration of how discrimination results in corruption.
Dirty Cops with an Illegal Warrant Came to Plant Drugs
The Outsiders Motorcycle Club was the victim of the most notorious law enforcement scandal in the history of Portland, Oregon. On the night of December 12, 1979, members of the Portland police department and narcotics squad illegally raided the Outsiders MC clubhouse and officer David Crowther was shot and killed by Robert “Pigpen” Christopher. Officers were knowingly attempting to serve an illegal warrant obtained through perjured statements about a nonexistent informant.
Narcotics officers Scott Deppe and Neil Gearhart, both present during the raid, corroborated this indisputable fact and furthermore revealed that the narcotics squad officers had come with drugs ready to plant in and around the clubhouse. In fact, it was discovered that police had planted amphetamine tablets during the raid. Narcotics officers also admitted that drugs were removed from David Crowtherʼs pockets at the hospital after he was shot.
These are the incontrovertible facts. The entire basis for law enforcementʼs presence at the clubhouse that night was to serve an illegal warrant and plant drugs. Robert Christopher was released after serving time in prison because the egregious conduct of the narcotics squad was uncovered.
Robert Christopher maintains that the police did not announce themselves and that his only choice to avoid being killed was to defend himself. It was later proven that police witnesses had lied at trial when they testified that they had knocked and announced themselves.
Although his death was a tragedy, David Crowther and the officers on the narcotics squad were corrupt and 58 tainted convictions were overturned and 35 pending cases dismissed before the scandal was over. Robert Christopher was defending his home and his life against an illegal intrusion and criminal conspiracy perpetrated by Portland narcotics officers.
How Many Innocent People are Currently Incarcerated for a Similar Situation?
As a victim of police abuse and discrimination, Robert Christopher put his energy into fighting for the rights and freedoms of motorcyclists because he understands firsthand the impact of law enforcement discrimination and abuse. If not for the testimony of dirty cops snitching each other out to avoid prosecution, this scandal would never have been uncovered and an innocent man would have spent 20 years in prison as a result of police corruption and discrimination. How many more people are currently sitting in prison due to similar circumstances? How many more will be victims in the future?
Let this story serve as an example of what results from discriminatory policing. Let this story serve as an example of how far police will go and how corrupt they are willing to be when targeting motorcycle clubs.
What Can WE Do To Protect Ourselves from Dirty Cops?
A unified grassroots movement is the best chance motorcycle clubs have to combat discrimination, profiling and police corruption. The Motorcycle Profiling Project is dedicated to advocating for legislative protections requiring all law enforcement to adopt written policies condemning motorcycle profiling, integrated with basic training. This solution has been empirically proven to substantially reduce incidents of discriminatory policing and profiling targeting motorcyclists.
(All claims made in this statement are based on publicly available and previously published material readily available. For example, The Oregonian, April 21, 1981, “Retrial of Christopher for killing appears doubtful.” The Times-News, May 29, 1981, p.5, “Narcotics trade triggers police misconduct.”)