Some Minnesota motorcyclists say they’re fed up with being unfairly targeted by police and are asking legislators to pass a law prohibiting profiling by law enforcement.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s been going on for a long time,” said Todd Riba, legislative director of American Bikers for Awareness, Training, and Education of Minnesota. “A lot of these guys — mainly the club guys — they kind of just thought this was just the way it is. They were familiar with being harassed, and in a way kind of accepted it.”

To help eliminate the alleged targeting of motorcyclists, legislation has been proposed that would implement a statewide training program for police and require all law enforcement agencies to adopt and enforce policies to prevent profiling.

“It simply is to request that law enforcement put together a policy and implement training … to make sure we are pulling people over for legitimate reasons,” said Sen. Dave Osmek, R-Mound, who sponsored the Senate’s version of the bill.

The push is part of a growing trend of revved up motorcycle enthusiasts pressing lawmakers to address motorcyclist profiling by law enforcement, Riba said. Washington state passed similar legislation in 2011.

While motorcycle groups say such laws are necessary to protect them from unwarranted interactions with police, law enforcement agencies in the state are strongly opposed to the effort.

At a recent Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, law enforcement representatives from the Minnesota State Patrol, Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training, Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association and the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association said existing guidelines and statutes that require traffic stops based on probable cause make any new laws unnecessary.

The officials also testified that they were unable to find proof of a single complaint filed against law enforcement regarding the issue.

“We need to provide more documented evidence and specifics so we can illustrate this issue,” Osmek said.

Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, a retired police officer, said he remains deeply skeptical of the proposal. He said the movement is “by groups that just plain don’t want to be stopped at all.”

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, who is carrying the House version of the bill, said he was told the proposal would get a committee hearing and vote this session. But Cornish — who is chairman of the House’s public safety committee — said the bill won’t be heard in his committee this year.

Despite law enforcement’s opposition, advocates say the measure is necessary to prevent future stereotyping and unjustified traffic stops.

“I wasn’t just pulled over and asked weird questions for a short period of time,” said Brandon Andrews, a motorcyclist who shared examples of police encounters at the committee meeting. “I was detained for longer than a normal person would be because of … how I looked, what I was wearing and what I was doing.”

 

Aadland is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.