On April 10, 2018 the California State Assembly Committee on Public Safety held a public hearing and ultimately voted 5-2 to give a favorable recommendation to AB 2972, a grassroots backed legislative proposal that prohibits law enforcement from engaging in the practice of motorcycle profiling and provides a private cause of action for victims of motorcycle profiling. Almost the entire room was filled with motorcycle club members and bikers from all over the state, in support of the measure. AB 2972 is slated for a Third Reading and final vote on the floor of the entire Assembly. If AB 2972 passes the Assembly it will then go through the same process in the Senate, before it would go to the governor’s desk to be signed into law, making California the third state to legislatively address motorcycle profiling.
A Grassroots Effort
AB 2972 is the result of the hard work of the California Motorcycle Anti-Profiling Coalition, a group formed nearly two years ago in an effort to push for a new profiling law in California. The CMAPC took a unique approach, combining the efforts of nearly every group involved in motorcycle rights all over the state of California, including ABATE, BRO, the MMA, the AMA, the Motorcycle Profiling Project and Confederations and Coalitions of Motorcycle Clubs from Sacramento and the Bay Area to San Diego, and many others.
The CMAPC is truly representative of the wide diversity of motorcyclists in California and also is proving that success is most likely with a unified effort, one in which the energy and political capital of the many is unified into a cohesive movement.
A Different Approach
This session, with the support of Assemblywoman Anna Caballero as the primary sponsor, AB 2972 takes a different approach than measures in Washington State, Maryland, and previous proposals in California. Those laws define motorcycle profiling almost identically to AB 2972, but they require law enforcement training. AB 2972 foregoes the training requirement for a simple prohibition and a private cause of action. This approach avoids all budgetary impacts, which means that it will not be referred to appropriations where previous training proposals died in the California Assembly.
Motorcyclists Flood Public Hearing
It was standing room only during the public hearing held by the Assembly Committee on Public Safety on April 10th. Indeed, the hearing was well attended by many California motorcycle rights advocates, from the AMA to members of 1% motorcycle clubs, visually demonstrating the diversity of the motorcycling community.
Nick Harris, the AMA’s western state’s representative, and myself, founder of the Motorcycle Profiling Project, were designated to provide testimony on behalf of the California Coalition. Although testimony was confined to two minutes per person, the testimony in support of AB 2972 was comprehensive and strong.
Harris reminded the committee that motorcyclists represent all walks of life and that the AMA believes that the majority of motorcyclists are upstanding citizens. Harris directed the committee to a position paper published by the AMA supporting legislation prohibiting motorcycle profiling.
I focused my testimony on answering law enforcement’s opposition described in letters of opposition sent to legislators. For example, the CHP says profiling doesn’t exist based on statistics that say only a fraction of motorcyclists are cited annually. But I argued many profiling stops occur without an arrest or citation. Profiling stops amount to investigatory fishing expeditions. The 2016 National Motorcycle Profiling Survey reveals that 46% of California motorcyclists surveyed feel they have been profiled within the last five years, without ever receiving a citation.
I pointed out, as reported in the Thousand Oaks Acorn in late 2016, that the CHP and Ventura PD targeted over 50 persons attending a biker’s rights legislative event discussing motorcycle profiling legislation. Nearly every biker was pulled over leaving the event, no citations were issued, but many were asked questions about their activities and associations.
The California State Sheriff’s Association testified in opposition that courts already say profiling is unconstitutional and illegal, so there is no reason for a redundant law. However, this argument ignores the long history and tradition of codifying legal principles through the legislature, which legal scholars argue is key to a comprehensible and effective system of law.
The committee voted 5-2 in favor, passing the legislation over to the entire 80 member assembly.
The discussion now in front of the entire California Assembly advances the simple idea that law enforcement should be based on a person’s behavior, not their appearance or associations. Motorcycle profiling is not an example of a group trivializing the issue of discrimination or attempting to add to a laundry list of protected groups. It is a valid constitutional discussion. Federal court precedent irrefutably has extended 1st amendment protection to motorcycle club colors and membership.
Every step AB 2972 takes in the California legislature is one step closer to making California the next state to address the issue. AB 2972 eliminates all ambiguity and provides specific protection to a group experiencing irrefutable profiling. With zero budgetary impact, there is simply no downside.
There is no democracy without participation! Contact your California Assembly Members and urge them to vote yes on AB 2972. Go to: http://assembly.ca.gov/assemblymembers Silence is consent.