Hope you are prepared for a good long read this morning - you WILL need a coffee or tea and 15 minutes to get through this rant but I feel it is important that you take that time...

I read with much dismay, an article out of Australia, where in the new Consorting Laws have put an innocent, mentally challenged man in prison. The conviction of the man was over turned last week, but none the less, the fact that the police there appear to be using this law against people they "don't like" is troubling.

Begin Quote:

"BARRISTER Wayne Baffsky had long suspected that consorting laws aimed at outlaw bikies in NSW would be unleashed on anybody the police did not like. The Hells Angels barrister never dreamed it would happen so soon." End Quote

I have also been following closely what has been happening right here in Canada with the rank and file of the RCMP and folks, I am concerned.

There is so much in house fighting over the reforms that need to take place with in the police agency,, that truthfully, they appear to be kids in a sand box fighting over a dinky toy instead of grown adults working through an important issue. 

The headlines read:

Ontario judge rebukes top Mountie in leaked letter Email exposes top cop’s lousy leadership

Dissident Mounties threaten to expose force’s ‘orchards of Bad Apples’

Corporal’s critical letter latest salvo against RCMP management

Then there is the fact that the RCMP are in the news for more poor conduct issues with individual members, those headlines read:

Judge deems Penticton RCMP officers testimony not believable in trial

Couple not guilty after Penticton RCMP botch warrants in grow op bust

Mountie’s discipline report took eight months to write: documents

I want everyone who reads my blog to understand what we are up against when it comes to the feelings of all involved in protecting the rights and freedoms of Canadian Motorcyclists. And then ask yourself - could what is happening in Australia ever happen here?  I know how I feel - what about you?

I came home to something last night that I feel I need to share with you as it pertains to the above situations that are happening with in the RCMP.

After a great evening spent at the Howlin' Coyote Bikers Bash and a day of riding to get back home - I received the email you see below.

The criticisms in the email stem from our Police Harassment and Profiling Report.  The person in question feels that I am not attempting to foster a "work together with the police" environment on our site. 

Here is his email in its entirety, the only editing to his email was to remove the reference as to which club he rides with.

And I quote: 

I recently had an opportunity to review your website and I wanted to share some concerns. I have been riding dirt bikes, street bikes and touring bikes for almost 40 years. My wife and I currently own a 2010 Yamaha Roadstar 1700, a 2005 Yamaha V-Star 1100 and a 1996 Kawasaki Ninja. We both have served in the military for 30 yrs across the country and overseas as well thus we have also had the opportunity to ride motorcycles in various jurisdictions, in the US and elsewhere.  Upon transferring to the Reserve Force with the military I became a full time police officer and currently still work in that field. I think it is obvious that we have a significant amount of riding experience and exposure to the riding public as well as law enforcement around the world.

Your website does nothing to mention working with Law Enforcement in improving relationships with the riding community or more importantly, riding safety. There is an obvious solicitation of negative views of the police, complaints against police and input of negative interactions with the police. In addition it provides a complete questionnaire where you can provide the police officer's names, badge numbers, date/time/group of the incident, and even photographs, etc. It asks you to provide copies of the pics and or video taken however it does not state the purpose of providing the recordings/pictures. There is only one question in the entire page where it asks if the officer(s)/interaction was friendly. We, as the police do not provide the details of every traffic stop with a motorcyclist to the general public. If the matter is in the interest of the public (safety, threat, etc) the information that is released is minimal; i.e. the persons name and charges laid are detailed and only if a person has appeared before a justice. Yet you are prepared to rely on likely prejudicial information from one side of the story and to what end? Strange, not a single question of: Were you, the motorcyclist, guilty of a breach of a traffic act or criminal offense which resulted the police stopping you? Has this incident been resolved in court and if so, what was the result? Did this incident make you a better/safer rider?

Safety of the public is our mission.....working together with all of the various motoring communities is a critical part of successfully completing that mission on a daily basis. There is always room for improvement on the part of law enforcement as well as the motoring public. Open communication, training and capitalization of the safe, successful and positive interactions with the police are also part of that effort.

Belt Drive Betty is clearly not part of that community. END QUOTE

In my letter to the person who sent me this scathing rebuke of our web site and the form, I expressed my concerns regarding his sentiments and attempted to educate him on what we are truly doing with that form and the information we have been gathering.

And I quote:

As a rider for close to 40 years myself, I have witnessed both the good and bad in motorcycling and in the police services as I myself also happen to have three uncles (One biological and two "adopted" ones) who are retired from the force.

To be very frank with you, I find the tone of your letter to be accusatory instead of inquisitive and therefore it comes across as confrontational instead of educational.

You assume that we rely on a one sided version of the information and yet you don't even truly ask what we do with the information being gathered, why it's being gathered or what the possible need for it being gathered could possibly be.

So, let me somewhat enlighten you as to what the roles and our end run goals, from the perspective of Belt Drive Betty Media and the soon to be formed motorcyclists advocacy association, are.

My web site is a news and information site.

We gather, analyze, investigate and report on what we learn and we will be turning the information over to the advocacy association to work with further, in the future.

The advocacy association's job will be to educate and assist the riding community with the end run goal of fostering a better understanding and a spirit of cooperation between the motorcycling community and the police services in this country. (But that is only one area of advocacy that it will undertake.)

Of late, there have been a number of high profile situations surrounding motorcycle rallies that have had some rather disturbing incidences transpire and our community has been very upset because they do not understand the behind the scene events that have occurred.

I ascertained that there was the need to find out what was going on and hence the form was created.

The number of people who have been upset enough to fill out a form has caused me to believe that we need an advocacy group to work on behalf of the motorcycle community.

You see, many people who have experienced what they believe to be abuse of authority and or force or harassment/profiling are too scared to deal with the issues they face alone and we intend to help them to navigate the channels through the advocacy group.

We, as Belt Drive Betty Media, gather the information from them and we then contact the detachments in question, we get the officers side of the incident and if necessary we will make FIA requests.

We have a former police officer to assist us in understanding the situations on a case-by-case basis as well as a lawyer.

When the information in the forms is dealt with and we know what the facts are on the other side of the equation, we discuss the situations with our lawyer and then let the rider know the whys and what’s of the situation they faced. How it is handled from there will be determined based on a case-by-case situation and will be between the lawyer and the rider involved.

Belt Drive Betty Media plays the role investigator and gatherer of information.

I, personally, am spearheading the formation of a Motorcyclist Advocacy Association.

I wear many hats in the riding community.

I am a motorcycle tourism advocate who has been turned away from establishments, right here in Alberta – motels, campgrounds that refuse to serve me because I was on a motorcycle. I turned that lemon into the Rider Friendly Business Association to guide riders to the establishments that want to earn their business. I never want to see a visitor to my home province or my country ever be turned away just because for the machine they ride like I was. I happen to be a very proud Canadian.

I work with and support all kinds of police and military charities and riding clubs. I have sponsored hundreds of thousands of dollars in free advertising and promotion to those groups and their events.

I am a member of the CAV and my father and mother both served in the forces.

I work tirelessly to promote safe riding. We have a rider safety and training section on our web site under lifestyles.

I endeavor to ensure that we take as fair and balanced an approach on everything that myself and Belt Drive Betty Media takes on.

If you look through the news feeds, you will see that we report on everything to do with the RCMP and other police services – if it is in the news feeds and we find it, it is put out there for the riding community to find out about. You will also see the Hells Angel, Banditos, Outlaws and other 1% information. The information on both the police services and the 1% clubs comes from the mainstream media. We also have information on the various clubs, their charities and causes – so in essence our site shows the good the bad and the ugly – all of it.

But we have so much more than the regular news…

We have international, national and provincial information on travel and tourism, news and information on the manufacturers, ride comparisons, recalls, custom bikes and more.

We provide a Never Ride Alone Program, monster events calendars and a whole lot more.

I feel you are judging the quality and veracity of what we/I do based on one form, one form that I feel you have totally misjudged its intention.

Our community has doubled in size in the last 10 years. And I, more than most, understand that education HAS to play a key role in its maturity. We cannot educate until we know what the rider is feeling, understanding and experiencing in their interactions with the police services.

It is my aim to see the riding community have a place to voice their concerns, be assisted – either through education on their individual situation or through other forms of advocacy.

I have preached for the past ten years that we have to learn how to share our world in a way that is compassionate and empathetic, that we have rights, responsibilities and obligations as citizens and taxpayers, but we, as a group, as a community have no voice, no place to be educated and we have no true seat at the table to put forth questions, concerns or suggestions.

The police forces have their advocacy groups, their media departments for imparting information and education. The motorcycle community needs the same resources, not unlike the various sporting associations, employee associations etc.

I hope that the information I have provided addresses your concerns and I ask you to remember that this community has grown from 300,000 to over 600,000 in the last 10 years and as we move towards the maturation of the community we need a national organization that can have a place at the discussion table when it comes to insurance, road maintenance, policing, events and a whole host of topics.

We need a national organization that can educate, promote and lobby on behalf of the touring, cruising community on a variety of topics.

I hope you will see the value in that and decide to participate and contribute the goals we look forward to pursing not just in my business – Belt Drive Betty Media, but in the Rider Friendly Business Association and in the soon to be formed Advocacy Association.

One final thought before I close off….

My personal rule of thumb is that there are three sides to every story:
And the facts!  END QUOTE

Oh well - one at a time we will educate and inform both riders and police services. 
Some days I truly wonder about this job I have taken on and whether it is worth the effort.  The heat that I am getting is something I expected and yet it frustrates the daylights out of me that it even exists.

I know, I know - thick skin, thick skin - I shall put on my armour of thick big girl panties and carry one...

So - back to my question of the day - do you see the situation that is transpiring in Australia ever becoming a reality here in Canada? I'd love to know your thoughts.

In other news:

To fill yourself in on what is happening in the motorcycle community and see what might affect your day and life as a rider visit where our work is keeping YOU informed.

I leave you with a few funnies, shared with me by friends on Facebook and via emails...


Have a fantastic Monday - if that's possible...

If you are fortunate enough to be riding today please - ride like everyone around you is blind and can not see you.

Belt Drive Betty,
Editor and Rider

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