It was a sunny Sunday morning. My wife and I had just finished a shopping trip to the mall. We were heading home and planning to head to the beach on our motorbikes for some much-needed R&R. The light had just turned green; we were second in line. While we were waiting to exit the mall parking lot, a sheriff s cruiser pulled up, the deputy exited his vehicle and stopped traffic for our exit and the opposite exit driveway. At first, we saw nothing that would justify stopping traffic. Then, we heard the unmistakable sound of rolling thunder. After a few minutes, we put the car in park. The car in front of us and the two cars on either side did the same. Fifteen minutes later, when the line of Heritage Classics and Fat Boys hadn t ended, we noticed several cars behind us backing up, trying to make an escape via a side exit driveway, only to be stymied by another sheriff s cruiser blocking traffic at that exit as the line of hogs continued. Just short of the 30-minute mark, the last of the motorcycles went by.
What a waste of manpower, my wife commented. I had to agree.
About two weeks later, I noticed an editorial in the local paper by an angry member of the local biker chapter. He complained that a charity ride had to be canceled because the sheriff s office wasn't able to provide traffic control. A few days later, the local sheriff wrote the op-ed page to explain that manpower and budgetary constraints had prevented his office from providing deputies to block traffic at the 25 30 intersections this group had requested. He said his inability to devote the number of deputies needed for this event in no way prevented the group from making their run, but they d just have to stop at all the red lights. Needless to say, there was no ride that day.
It may seem like a non-issue, but I beg to differ. This issue can have grave implications.
Revisiting a Related Incident
When I read Brian McKenna s story, A Warrior's Sacrifice: The Keith Borders Incident, in the June 2009 issue of Law Officer, I was motivated to speak out on staffing shortages and special events.
To refresh your memories, Officer Keith Borders was a 34-year-old, three-year veteran of a large metropolitan police department. One afternoon, he responded to a domestic violence call that had been waiting for 15 minutes. Normally, Borders would ve waited for backup, but, to quote McKenna, most of the department was tied up working a major biker run several miles away, leaving the rest of the city shorthanded. Because he took the call alone, Borders sustained a shotgun blast to his head, two pellets penetrating to his brain. Additional injuries included two fractured vertebrae in his neck and back, as well as additional brain injuries from his impact with the ground. He retired shortly thereafter on a medical pension. I d urge all our readers to reread McKenna s piece. My 30-minute wait at the biker rally doesn t compare to Border s experience, but the issue of staff shortages is no less real.
In today s economy, are police agencies really doing our communities justice by detailing marked patrols to traffic points for biker runs rather than other, more important safety and enforcement functions?
When Keith radioed that the DV subject had barricaded himself in the house, the biker run suddenly didn t seem as important as it had before. How important is a bike ride to a woman in the throes of an incident, who s waited 15 minutes for help? It pays to puts things in perspective.
The sheriff in my town came to his senses and decided that the local biker club is going to have to abide by the same rules the rest of the motoring public does and stop for red lights and stop signs. From now on, the head of the local biker club will have to pony up a little coin for some off-duty deputy overtime, and I d hope Borders former agency came to the same conclusion after his incident.