State Representative Tony Cornish, in an editorial commentary written to Faribault Daily News on October 12th, condemned recent efforts by motorcyclists in Minnesota to pass anti-motorcycle profiling legislation. Cornish wrote that the legislation “was testified on in the Minnesota Legislature by the “Sons of Silence,” a motorcycle gang that does not want to be stopped for anything.” What Cornish fails to mention is that the members of the SOS MC that testified are upstanding citizens. In fact, one of them is an elected official.
Mayor Bobby Mann of Hammond, Minnesota (pictured above) is one of the individuals Cornish is disrespectfully labeling a gang member. Mayor Mann, also a member of the SOS MC, testified in favor of the anti-motorcycle profiling legislation. Also testifying was Jim Jahnke, a member of the SOS MC from Rochester MN. Jahnke was a union iron worker for 30 years. In the course of his work, Jahnke successfully passed stringent IBM and Mayo clinic security background checks that were required when working on sensitive facilities.
Cornish’s commentary is an example the inaccurate propaganda that results in profiling stops in the first place. Rep. Cornish is ignorant of relevant statistical data, improperly writes that current laws ban motorcycle profiling, embraces a discriminatory stereotype when talking about motorcycle clubs, and fails to disclose that he is a former law enforcement officer. Cornish’s obvious bias presents a potential conflict of interest relating to police accountability. Motorcycle profiling is an issue in Minnesota that can be fixed with a simple and cost-efficient solution.
Cornish Actively Impedes Anti-Profiling Efforts
ABATE and the Confederation of Clubs of Minnesota have recently been attempting to pass a law addressing the issue of motorcycle profiling. Bills have been sponsored and assigned to the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Cornish. Cornish has refused to give the bill a hearing in his committee, claiming that motorcycle profiling is not happening in the state. Cornish has not stopped at politically impeding a cost efficient and sensible law. He is now writing letters to local newspaper editors attempting to delegitimize the movement to end motorcycle profiling in Minnesota, and disrespecting other elected officials at the same time.
Statistical Data Proves Motorcycle Profiling Occurs In Minnesota
Cornish writes to the FDN:
“First and foremost, there is no proof whatsoever that motorcycle profiling is happening. I’ve been involved in this subject from the start. As chair of the Public Safety Committee, I asked for proof and there was none.”
Recent statistical data proves Cornish is simply wrong. The National Motorcycle Profiling Survey 2015/2016 includes participants from Minnesota that have reported recent profiling incidents. The red dots on the following map show the location of reported incidents of motorcycle profiling. Incidents are occurring all over the state and many incidents are concentrated in Minneapolis. Moreover, ABATE and the Confederation of Clubs of MN presented evidence proving that profiling was occurring. The motorcycle rights movement has been profiled and harassed, even during political events and gatherings.
In 2012 and 2013, law enforcement used the bogus pretext of three bulb headlights to pull motorcyclists over and harass them during ABATE of Minnesota’s State Rally in late August. No riders were cited. Official correspondence validates this. In response to a letter sent by the MN COC attorney to the Meeker County Sheriff, the Meeker County Attorney admitted that these stops were occurring, were wrong, and promised that the officers involved had since been trained that three bulb headlights are legal.
Although, importantly, this proves training is easy and cost free to implement, proper training should go beyond the legality of the pretext, in this case headlights, and deal with the underlying issue of discrimination that truly motivate these stops. Remember, targeting a political movement violates all reasonable constitutional conceptions of free speech, association, equal protection and privacy.
Testimony Proves Profiling Is Occurring in MN.
Jim Jahnke, one of the SOS MC members that testified, described a stereotypical example of motorcycle profiling that brings the statistics to life. Rep. Cornish is disregarding a man that has been the victim of motorcycle profiling and testified about his experience. On one occasion, while riding his motorcycle in Morehead, MN, Jahnke was pulled over and harassed by 6 police units that had been lying in wait across the street from the SOS clubhouse. Jahnke was initially stopped for going 29 in a 30 and held for approximately 90 minutes. In that time, he was harassed and interrogated about his club affiliations. The nature and duration of this stop was unreasonable and definitionally profiling.
Current Law And Police Training Do Not Prevent Motorcycle Profiling
Cornish inaccurately asserts that current law and training already prohibit profiling. Cornish writes:
“Currently every single law enforcement agency is already trained that they cannot stop motorcycles on a whim or for no reason, according to the Constitution. Every law enforcement agency conducts this training and has records to prove it.”
Cornish is correct that current constitutional law prohibits an officer from stopping a motorcyclist “solely” because of how they look or “solely” because of their apparel. What Cornish fails to grasp is that almost all profiling stops, like the ABATE stops previously described, involve the use of a traffic pretext, which means that the discriminatory motive is merely “a factor”, not the “sole factor” in the stop. The Supreme Court says the 4th Amendment only looks to objective criteria regardless of the officer’s other motives. This is why profiling is so prevalent and so easily circumvented under minimal 4th Amendment protections.
Motorcycle profiling legislation goes beyond the mere pretext to the actual motivation for the stop. If a discriminatory motive is “a factor” in the stop, even with reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop, then the stop is invalid.
Cornish Embraces Discriminatory Biker Stereotypes
Cornish reveals his discriminatory bias when he writes:
“This move for an “Anti-Motorcycle Profiling” law comes from national motorcycle gangs in the West and was testified on in the Minnesota Legislature by the “Sons of Silence,” a motorcycle gang that does not want to be stopped for anything.”
But Cornish is Ignorant About Clubs And The 1st Amendment.
First, motorcycle clubs are not gangs. To describe motorcycle clubs from Washington State or the West as gangs is prejudicial. And it is pure ignorance to say that motorcycle clubs in the West are pushing for legislation in Minnesota. Although it is true that Washington State was the first to pass the law, Maryland has also passed the law unanimously. And a pending federal resolution, H.Res. 831, encourages every state to follow suit. In response, motorcycle rights groups in a dozen states are already preparing for a push in 2017.
Second, the Sons of Silence is also a motorcycle club, not a gang. And implying that the Sons of Silence “does not want to be stopped for anything” is intentionally painting the picture that members are predisposed to be criminal. And, considering that members of the Sons of Silence serve as Mayors in Minnesota, Cornish should be more cognizant of reality and the fundamental rights of association enjoyed by motorcycle clubs under the 1st Amendment.
To write the law off as a smokescreen for 1% clubs is intended to delegitimize a national policy discussion that can no longer be ignored. Cornish’s bias is evident, and the fact that he was a law enforcement officer should come as no surprise. Of course, he failed to reveal this bias when writing to the editor, and he also omitted that he was calling an elected Mayor and an upstanding union iron worker gang members. But these omissions are understandable considering Cornish’s conflict of interest.
Incorrect statements. No facts. Ignorance of law. Ironically, Cornish is a walking, talking, living example that demonstrates exactly why Minnesota needs a law addressing the issue of motorcycle profiling.
You may find Tony Cornish here:
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