Rep. Steve Kirby’s latest attempt to curb the alleged profiling of motorcyclists by law enforcement officers gained a little more traction Tuesday after his bill was passed out of committee on a 7-to-1 vote.
HB 2511 would force local law enforcement agencies to adopt a written policy designed to condemn and prevent the profiling of motorcyclists, who have testified that police target them out of the mistaken assumption they belong to biker gangs. The language used in HB 2511 is borrowed from a bill passed in 2002 that dealt with racial profiling, and it would institute training to address the problem.
“If we have to make it a legislative matter to make it stop, so be it,” said Kirby, a Tacoma Democrat. “We shouldn’t have had to pass a racial profiling bill, but we did because it was the right thing to do. And this is the right thing to do.”
Kirby said he hoped his previous two bills on motorcyclist profiling would solve the problem by at least bringing attention to it. But motorcyclist advocates say police still target them for stops and enforcement.
Official s from the Washington State Patrol and the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs deny the claims.
David Devereaux of the Washington Confederation of Clubs said before the House Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness that almost every member of every club, and even motorcyclists who aren’t in clubs, has been profiled.
Motorcyclis ts present at Tuesday’s hearing point to a specific incident involving the Washington State Patrol in January of 2009 as one of many incidents that prove they’re being profiled. At Black Thursday, an annual legislative lobbying day for motorcyclists, riders went inside the Capitol to try to find sponsorship for a bill that would stop motorcycle profiling. Outside, the Washington State Patrol arrived and began taking down their license plate numbers.
Video footage taken of the officers shows some crawling through bushes to get the information. Committee Chairman Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, said he never profiled anyone in his 25 years in law enforcement, but acknowledged that “what you’re talking about has happened.”
Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, a Benton County Sheriff’s deputy, said he doesn’t profile motorcyclists either. He voted against moving the bill forward because he wants to see it tweaked.
Donnie Landsman, who’s in charge of legislative efforts for the Washington chapter of ABATE, said he was profiled in the halls of the John L. O’Brien Building before Tuesday morning’s hearing.
“Oh there’s a motorcycle gang. I wonder what they’re here for?” he heard someone say after he and a group of other motorcyclists arrived early to find out what room the hearing was going to be in.