Street Savvy - Dealing With Motorcycle Cops

Asking For It

Photography by Kevin Wing

I'm an officer for a major Northern California police department (near a big, red bridge) and have been an avid motorcyclist for about five years. I often commute on a bike and, like most riders, my idea of heaven is a long, twisty road with no cars and plenty to see. Quite simply, riding keeps me sane. That said, I want to share a recent experience I had with a fellow biker at work...

I was driving back to my station after finishing a call when I noticed a motorcyclist in my rear-view. I pulled to the side to allow him to pass, and as he did I noticed that he had no mirrors. No big deal, I figured I'd just pull him over and advise him that he needed to put them on. But as I looked a little harder at the bike, I noticed that he had no license plate or turn signals, and had removed the baffles from his exhaust. At this point, I knew I had to stop him.

I activated my lights and waited for him to yield. After a few taps of my siren, I began to think the guy might be thinking about taking off. It wouldn't be the first time-after all, he had no license plate. After every hit of my siren, the rider turned and looked at me as though he wasn't sure he was supposed to pull over. He continued for another hundred feet or so, where he finally decided to pull over. At this point, I was a little upset. Many people have been killed or seriously injured because they or others didn't yield to police-so much so that my department has developed a strict pursuit policy.

I approached him and asked for all the pertinent documents. Almost immediately, he shot me a look and gave me attitude. I asked him if he knew that he had to have mirrors, and with even more attitude he told me that he knew. Now this guy was getting really upset-the nerve of me pulling him over for no reason! Of course, he had to say that I obviously had nothing better to do-never a good idea. I told him several times in a conservative and borderline-friendly tone why I pulled him over. At worst, I could give him fix-it tickets for the violations. As I was looking up a few of the sections, he lit up a smoke (which we don't usually allow for safety reasons) and began to whine more. At this point, I decided to issue him a ticket. When I finished writing it, I walked up to him and he flicked the cigarette onto the ground. The fine for throwing a lit cigarette onto a California roadway is extremely expensive. But did I cite him? No. All I wanted to do was get this guy out of here so I could go do some real police work. The traffic stop that originally would have taken 5 minutes had turned into 15 because of his interruptions and belligerent attitude.

In short, this guy got a citation because he asked for it. It was a huge waste of time and totally unnecessary. Traffic enforcement is as much a part of my job as catching bad guys. In fact, I spend more time dealing with traffic accidents than making felony arrests. Realize that cops have a job to do just like you. Treat them the way you want to be treated and you might get off easy. Give them attitude and they could throw the book at you.

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