12/14/2018US Senate Condemns Motorcycle Profiling
Non-binding resolution passes US Senate urging law enforcement to condemn the singling out of motorcyclists for traffic stops.
The US Senate on Tuesday adopted a non-binding resolution that condemns police departments that single out motorcyclists for traffic stops. The mostly symbolic measure calls on state law enforcement officials to condemn the practice.
"The Senate promotes increased public awareness on the issue of motorcycle profiling; encourages collaboration and communication with the motorcycle community and law enforcement to engage in efforts to end motorcycle profiling; and urges state law enforcement officials to include statements condemning motorcycle profiling in written policies and training materials."
Under US Supreme Court precedent, the subjective motivation of a police officer is irrelevant as long as he can come up with a justification for a traffic stop after the fact. It is up to individual states to enact laws to restrict profiling, as Maryland, Virginia and Washington have done. Virginia, for instance, bans "the establishment on any highway of police checkpoints where the only vehicles subject to inspection are motorcycles."
The most famous use of roadblocks against two-wheelers was called "Operation 5060." New York police used the initiative go after motorcyclists after a fellow officer crashed his Chevy Tahoe SUV into a tree and died while trying to chase a sportbike in 2006. Roadblocks were set up to ticket riders for minor infractions the following year.
"The Division of State Police has modeled their motorcycle safety initiative after the checkpoints used when conducting roadside inspections of commercial vehicles," New York state's 2007 highway safety plan explained. "Variable message signs are used to direct all motorcycles to exit the highway to a location where troopers inspect the operator's license and registration, helmet and other equipment, and the equipment on the vehicle. An aerial speed detail is set up several miles beyond the checkpoint site... Troopers assigned to these details are available to assist in intercepting any motorcyclists who flee or attempt to avoid the motorcycle checkpoint."
No motorcyclists fled the Operation 5060 initiative, but hundreds of citations were issued. The operations continued. In 2016, a New York motorcyclist filed a complaint after he was detained at a motorcycle roadblock for not having a DOT sticker on his helmet. According to the complaint, the officer demanded the motorcyclist hand over his keys and became enraged when the man refused to do so. The officer shoved the man who was then arrested for resisting arrest. Police investigating the incident found they did nothing wrong.
In 2015, US Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) introduced legislation banning the use of federal funds to create motorcycle-only roadblocks, as New York state did. The language was folded into the Fast Act transportation funding measure that took effect in fiscal year 2017. Sensenbrenner insisted the roadblocks had nothing to do with safety.
"Motorcycle-only checkpoints profile motorcyclists -- using taxpayer money to corral them along the highway and check for infractions that do not cause crashes," Sensenbrenner said at the time.
The Senate measure, introduced by Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), passed by unanimous consent. A copy is available in a 250k PDF file at the source link below.