First Amendment

Published on November 17th, 2015 | by David "Double D" Devereaux

5

Why the Brother Speed MC Victory is So Important

The Brother Speed MC settlement over a 2013 raid at their Nampa, Idaho clubhouse is a textbook example of how law enforcement uses the media following baseless military-style raids to promote a negative perception of motorcycle clubs to the general public. Almost always, these raids amount to nothing but a photo op to feed a paradigm of profiling and discrimination. But notice that the stories about the settlement are barely a blip on the radar compared to the news coverage of the initial raid. It is important that Brother Speed’s story be told and shared in an attempt to encourage others to fight back and balance the scales of perception from Sons of Absurdity back to reality.

In August 2013, over 40 heavily armed state and federal law enforcement agents raided the Brother Speed clubhouse in Nampa and held everyone captive for over 3 hours. The warrant was sealed so there was no reasoning given for the raid. Of course, nothing was found in the clubhouse and no one was arrested or charged with a crime. But that did not stop law enforcement from seizing property and spreading generalized propaganda to justify a culture of discrimination.

Boise Police Gang Unit Detective Dave Leavitt was not on that raid, but claims to have extensive experience dealing with what he calls Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs in Idaho and offered “insight” into the Brother Speed MC to local media outlets.

As reported by 7 KTVB.com news in Idaho on August 30, 2013, Leavitt said that:

 

groups like those raided by federal agents in Nampa are different than just an average group of riders who like to get together on the weekends, wear leather and ride.

 

What’s the line between them? Criminal activity. The outlaw motorcycle clubs or gangs, like Brother Speed, is going to commit criminal acts.” Leavitt continued. “Brother Speed started in the late 60s in Boise, with a group of motorcycle enthusiasts, but today police say the group has changed over time. Eventually it morphed and changed into what it is today, an outlaw motorcycle club with a three-piece patch that commits criminal activity.”

 

These generalized claims are based on pure stereotype as demonstrated by the lack of particularized proof of criminality.  Brother Speed MC is simply not a criminal organization and the Nampa chapter is a perfect example of police rhetoric being dis-proven by reality. According to a press release issued by the club’s attorney Craig Durham:

 

“Brother Speed was founded in Boise in 1969 by a group of men with a common passion for riding American-made motorcycles . . . The members of the Nampa/Caldwell chapter members are primarily tradesmen, they said, including a pipe fitter, a tile setter, an electrician, and a plumber, among others. Four are retired.”

 

Brother Speed MC refused to just accept excessive civil liberty violations as the result of a military-style SWAT raid accompanied by a sealed warrant:

 

The club and its members sued numerous federal agents and the United States, saying their civil rights were violated when federal agents serving a search warrant broke down the door, set off flash-bang grenades, and sent dozens of heavily armed SWAT team members into the small home.

 

The club members were detained for up to three hours while agents forcibly removed their personal property, including their clothing, and confiscated club memorabilia, according to the club’s attorney, Craig Durham. “These were regular guys minding their own business that night,” Durham said. “They were not a threat, and there was no call for the use of terrifying, military-style tactics to serve a simple search warrant.”

 

“Ten members of the Brother Speed MC, along with the club itself, will be splitting a $16,500 payment from the United States government, to settle their lawsuit over a 2013 raid on their Nampa clubhouse that yielded no charges.” (See “Brother Speed settles suit against U.S. gov’t over Nampa raid, gets payment” – Nov 12, 2015 – Idaho – By Betsy Z. Russell; www.Spokesman.com)

 

Although the government is admitting no fault as a condition of the settlement, it is a big victory for a number of reasons. The club and its members are being compensated as a result of a deprivation of their rights as a result of an overly-broad and unjustified military-style raid.  Moreover, the fact that law enforcement is not admitting fault will mean very little to the legislature when considering the costs of settlements compared to cost-free anti-motorcycle profiling legislation that reduces obvious civil liability exposure.

This victory demonstrates that motorcycle clubs, even those clubs labeled criminals by some in government, are not what sensationalized law enforcement reports say they are. Behind most raids is the true story of a motorcycle club, a 1st Amendment protected association, that deserves protection from discriminatory law enforcement practices fueled by inaccurate stereotypes.

 

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About the Author

David

is the Spokesperson for the Washington State Council of Clubs, Founder of the Motorcycle Profiling Project, and works with motorcyclists at the national level. Contact: Send Email,



DISCLAIMER: Although comments are encouraged and appreciated, not all comments will be posted by Motorcycle Profiling Project LLC. The Motorcycle Profiling Project LLC appreciates oppositional viewpoints but will not post any comments that do not contribute to a respectful and meaningful discussion or are blatantly discriminatory or otherwise offensive. Resubmissions will be considered at the commenter's request.


5 Responses to Why the Brother Speed MC Victory is So Important

  1. Avatar BPC says:

    While the settlement can be seen as victory, my civil liberties are worth more than $1650 per person (assuming this is the amount they’ll actually receive after the lawyers take their customary 30%). A $16,500 settlement is less than negligible when a legislature considers the cost of court settlements versus anti-profiling legislation. I submit that most will consider the potential political cost of being accused of “coddling criminals” or some such as higher than the cost of court settlements if they are no more than this.

    For myself, if I’m a victim of the abrogation of our Constitution and curtailment of my liberties as a US Citizen that is the result of this type of government overreach, I want the government to feel the bite every bit as much as I did if not more. The cost/benefit analysis you refer to will never run in our favor until the costs become large enough to actually mean something to the powers that be.

    • David David "Double D" Devereaux says:

      Although I certainly agree that a higher settlement amount would be better, the fact that this settlement alone is 3 times higher than the cost of motorcycle profiling legislation estimated to be 5k (proven empirically in Washington and confirmed by the Maryland legislature among others) is very important to policymakers. Combined with the sunk costs misallocated to conduct an abusive and fruitless raid, the cost benefit analysis makes sense. Moreover, the potential for future liability is also an extremely important element in any cost benefit analysis. Considering recent events like Pocatello earlier this year and the literally dozens of solidified reports of profiling all over the state, the potential for civil liability is massive.

      Every cut is important. Bigger cuts are better. But this incident clearly demonstrates that profiling is a problem in Idaho that costs more (actual and potential) than the solution would.

      • Avatar BPC says:

        I understand and don’t disagree with you. It just seemed to me that, given the egregious nature of the government’s actions here, that the settlement was tiny. I agree that any settlement is significant. But I also know that in today’s political environment the costs of one particular course of action have to be very significant and obvious before entrenched interests will consider changing course.

  2. Avatar goatsnider says:

    two of the members were wrongfully charged with felonies by the state of Idaho ayear after the raid and fighting it all the way the feds left the state holding an emty bag and now look as stupid as they are

  3. Avatar Jamie Nielsen says:

    As the ex-wife of a motor rider I have mega respect for those guys. There is absolutely nothing that compares to riding a Harley behind my man. I am divorced and looking for a rider. Every guy I meet I compare to a MC rider. I hear and see how society treats them and us as the women of those men. Shame on them. I am glad they sued and won. This profiling has to stop. There are more criminals in cars than on motors. Hang in there guys, never lose your integrity.

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