BIKERS, COPS, AND THE PUBLIC TRUST
There bikers and there are cops. There are bikers who are cops and bikers who are outlaws. Then there are cops who are outlaws. It’s time to sort them all out and hopefully, clear up a few misconceptions.
The idea of the “Biker” has come a long way in recent years. In the earliest days of motorcycles and motorcycle clubs those who rode and lived this lifestyle were uncommon and relatively few. This is mostly because the road infrastructure was in its infancy, not many people could afford a motorcycle, and they weren’t manufactured in great numbers. This made the biker sort of a rare breed. Today, with somewhere near ten million motorcycles on our roads the lifestyle has evolved and “bikers” along with their clubs and organizations exist in fairly large numbers.
The ever popular AMA assertion that about 1% of these bikers can be considered outlaws is still axiomatic. The accuracy of this estimate is unknown. The “Outlaw” biker movement came about after WWII when returning veterans, who had access to surplus motorcycles, and a growing motorcycle market, formed their own clubs perhaps in response to their own post-war social alienation. These clubs were very different in character, structure, and function than their pre-war predecessors which now had waned due to the war. Add to this the later conflicts in Korea and Viet Nam, whose returning veterans contributed to the growth outlaw MC movement. The Middle Eastern conflicts of the 1990’s and the New Millenium are credited with propagating the modern generation of Outlaw Biker ( 1% and supporters) as well as many on the Law Abiding Biker (LAB/99%) side of the culture.
We do know that sometime in the early 1970’s police officers (Law Enforcement) found their way into the motorcycle club scene with the founding of clubs like the Blue Knights, and the Centurions. In more recent years many more of these clubs have formed using the LEMC (Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club) identifier. It can be argued that cops are somewhat socially isolated due to their profession, and seeking off-duty camaraderie among themselves is a natural thing. The assumption of similar fashions of dress as the “outlaw” bikers is of particular consternation among some folks. Interestingly, the Blue Knights MC originally adopted a light blue vest as their choice of color which served to set them apart from the often black leather or denim clad outlaw bikers. Today of course, black leather is the standard attire for most motorcycle clubs and independent bikers. It is normal for motorcycle clubs of all types to do things in support of social causes and benevolence to those less fortunate. Some, more so than others.
It should be noted that returning war veterans from Vietnam were very socially isolated as the mainstream media vilified them as the purveyors of a very unpopular war. Being viewed as an outlaw made it a little easier to assume that identity. We have since learned to separate the warrior from the politics of the war and we are quick to show appreciation to our military veterans regardless of how we feel about the politicians who put them ( and the rest of us) in harms way.
As a society, directed and influenced by the mainstream media, we have redirected our anger at our law enforcement community, although to a more limited degree. No-one disputes that law enforcement sometimes goes wrong with bad results. Some people would have us believe that law enforcement is not worthy of the public trust placed in it on a blanket scale. I would argue to the contrary. It is a sad reality that now, law enforcement officers are being murdered in this country on a daily basis and it is treated with indifference by our most influential institutions. I don’t think it will take decades to restore public support for law enforcement. We are already seeing social media fighting back and winning. We will once again learn to separate the warrior from the politics of bad policy that sometimes victimizes everybody.
The Public Trust is a general belief , held by society, that law enforcement officers will do the right thing when left to their own devices. And that we will weed out those in whom public trust is misplaced. There are few professions that police themselves like the police do. The law enforcement profession is full of individuals who still believe in the ideology that we should be held to a higher standard of behavior. The daily behaviors of the VAST majority of cops still rises to this level and those rare incidents of misbehavior are not nearly as common as the media and the haters would have us think they are.
We in the LEMC and LAB community have a golden opportunity to promote the public trust among our motorcycle clubs and organizations at the same time. There is a misguided belief that law enforcement bikers are no different than those outlaw bikers whom they fear. It is safe to say that not everyone falls into this trap. But generally people who don’t pay attention or have no personal knowledge of the Law Abiding Biker (LAB) culture don’t know the difference between the criminal who rides ands belongs to a gang and the average biker who rides the same type of motorcycle, wears similar gear, and may belong to a club or organization . The old attitude that “they should know the difference” is not enough anymore. We must become more proactive in how we promote ourselves, interact with the public, and educate our communities about who we are and what we do.
There is nothing standing in our way in the pursuit of social legitimacy. I reject the assertion that we are copying outlaw bikers and somehow wannabe like them. They didn’t create the motorcycle culture, they are just a small part of a century old, uniquely American, subculture that has stood the test of time and evolved into mainstream Americana.
Society is coming to grips with the fact that law abiding motorcycle clubs are here to stay, and that most MC members are law abiding citizens who come from all occupations and walks of life. These citizens bring with them the highest of ideals which is often demonstrated through charity and benevolent work. They want only a few concessions; To enjoy the freedom of the road and the camaraderie of mutual social interaction, to be viewed through the prism of public trust, and to be seen and acknowledged by attentive motorists sharing the road.
The one thing that we can all do. That is, all law abiding bikers in clubs and independents alike, is to stand together. With all of the various patches, crests, and logos, whether you are a MC, LEMC, PSMC, RC, RA, Motorcycle Ministry, other type of group or independent rider, we are bound by one common theme.
The Law Abiding Biker culture has been here all along and is here to stay. We are not the people your parents warned you about. We are the people your parents wanted you to be. We are the people who patronize your businesses and ride on our streets. We are the people who step up when someone is in need. We are the people who work, every day, to demonstrate what freedom, friendship, citizenship, and patriotism are supposed to be about. We celebrate independence and embrace solidarity. We respect the rule of law and the rights of our neighbors. We are American citizens first, and whatever else we choose second. We are the majority; Law Abiding Bikers.