Capitol Alert

Police targeting of motorcyclists focus of California bill

Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, watches William Wollner of the American Motorcyclist Association during a press conference in Sacramento on February 17, 2015. In the background left to right: Rodney Grenier, Modified Motorcycle Association of California, and Greg Coppes, Biker Rights Organization of California.
Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, watches William Wollner of the American Motorcyclist Association during a press conference in Sacramento on February 17, 2015. In the background left to right: Rodney Grenier, Modified Motorcycle Association of California, and Greg Coppes, Biker Rights Organization of California. Jeremy B. White

All they want is to drive California’s roads without the police harassing them for how they look.

Bikers have rights, too.

Citing anecdotal evidence that California motorcyclists tend to get pulled over unjustly, Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, has introduced legislation that would have police officers undergo training emphasizing that that profiling of motorcycle riders is prohibited. Assembly Bill 334 would also require law enforcement agencies to create policies barring discrimination against riders.

The bill seeks “to ensure that anyone entering law enforcement in California knows the ground rules to apply the law fairly without regard for irrelevant factors of, ‘I’m on a bike’ or they’re dressed a certain way,” Cooley said. “We recognize that this issue is a much bigger issue right now than the motorcycling setting,” he added, “but it is an important issue of people being secure in their persons and the administration of traffic laws.”

Intimidating outfits like leather jackets can give the wrong impression, said Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, one of several Republican coauthors of the bill. Achadjian rides a motorcycle, as does his wife, and said the helmet and leather jacket he dons for protection conceal his identity.

“We’re all human beings. We all have our professional jobs,” Achadjian said, recounting meeting bikers and learning that “they were doctors, lawyers, plumbers – all who love to ride.”

It was while rumbling home from a bikers’ unity rally in Sacramento last year that Joseph Iosefa and his fellow United Motorcycle Clubs of Alameda County riders were pulled over for no apparent reason, Iosefa recalled after a Tuesday press conference for Cooley’s bill.

“Unfortunately, it is common,” Iosefa said, recalling a separate time he was pulled over for a broken taillight that he said was not in fact broken. “A lot of the pretexts that they’re going for don’t exist.”

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.

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