Senior police experienced in dealing with criminal motorcycle members are having difficulty picking between the innocent and potentially guilty, according to a riders‘ group boss.
Motorcycle Riders Association of Queensland president Chris Mearns says Police Commissioner Ian Stewart told a group of riders‘ representatives last Thursday that innocent riders were being caught up in the crackdown on bikies by naive and inexperienced police.
However, Chris says a group of riders on their way to a charity motorcycle rally and bike show on Saturday were targeted by a group of senior police which included experienced officers from Taskforce Hydra.
“Taskforce Hydra has been focused on the banned clubs for a considerable period prior to the introduction of the new laws and hence we would expect that they could tell the difference between the groups,” Chris says.
Under the new Vicious Lawless Associations Disestablishment (VLAD) Act introduced last month police are able to pull over riders in groups of three or more to check their credentials.
The Commissioner admitted at the meeting that innocent riders had been caught in this operation because banned clubs were now not wearing their colours and it was difficult for young and inexperienced police to distinguish banned riders from innocent recreational riders.
He promised to have these police trained to identify between clubs banned under the VLAD Act and ordinary riders.
“The evidence of these officers manning an interception unit that should, by any reasonable understanding, only be expecting to meet recreational riders is evidence that all the rhetoric that is being supplied about the police targeting is completely unreliable,” Chris says.
“This treatment of recreational riders is also contributing to a large reduction in the amount of riders willing to run the gauntlet of police harassment and thus is now adversely effecting not only the attendance at these charity events but is also affecting businesses that make their livelihood from recreational riders.”
The Brisbane Times reports today that Mt Glorious and Mt Mee cafes patronised by motorcycle riders had complained of a 20-30% downturn in trade since the VLAD Act was hastily introduced. It is also believed the meeting was told that the Ulysses Club which held its annual rally in Maryborough this year (pictured) is now considering whether to hold future AGM events in Queensland while their members are concerned about these issues.
“It is clearly apparent from statements that are coming from the Government and enforcement agencies that their only response is that they really don’t care and we will all have to put up with the loss of rights and possibly livelihood because their moral crusade is all-empowering and they do not need to listen to the wishes and needs of those that they have been adversely affected.”
Chris says this attitude and lack of resolution to these problems is “completely unacceptable”.
The meeting last Thursday with the Commissioner and Police Minister Jack Dempsey was also told that if riders wanted to avoid the undue attention of police they could register their group ride with the police much the same as the current “Party Line” to advise police of a party.
Chris and Australian Motorcycle Council representative Eva Cripps said after the meeting that this was not acceptable.
However, a representative of one of the many recreational rider groups present at the meeting claims there was no dissent to this suggestion during the meeting.
The representative, who did not wish to be named, also says in an email to MotorbikeWriter that the Commissioner pointed out in the meeting that some recreational riders look similar to outlaw bikies.
“Ian Stewart asked us to look around the room at each other and said most of us look like OMG members and so until his officers were ‘up close and personal’, it was difficult to see the difference,” he writes.
“He said it was a problem and later said it was particularly difficult for the younger officers who did not have the experience that older officers had. He said his officers were being trained and directed to be ‘Safe, Lawful and Professional’.”
He says the Commissioner told the meeting: “Our people are not going out to harass you. We don’t know whose who into the zoo yet. I’m sorry some of your people went through that (incidents described during the meeting) but there will be some more inconvenience.”