What ‘Success’, Mr Dempsey?

Boosters claim the Queensland ‘bikie war’ is won…but the special jail is empty, no rewards have been paid, and only ordinary motorcyclists have suffered the crackdown pain.

What ‘Success’, Mr Dempsey?

By Eva Cripps

Nothing could possibly be more satisfying than achieving a desired goal. But what should the Queensland government count as “success” in terms of its “war on bikies”?

Queensland Police Minister Jack Dempsey has recently informed parliament that not one recreational motorcyclist has been charged in the government’s crackdown.

What? Is the police minister claiming it’s a success to admit wasting months harassing innocent motorcyclists in Queensland – without finding a single criminal amongst them? Really? Has strip-searching innocent mums and dads on the side of the road become just normal police operations in Queensland, without charging anyone?

“We’ve seen 946 criminal motorcycle gang members – for the sake of the opposition, not one recreational rider – and their associates charged with 2274 offences,” Minister Dempsey gloated to the media (SBS, 20 May 2014).

Photo: Evans on his bike (Facebook)

But where in the minister’s statistics is mention of Jamie Evans, subjected to blatant harassment when repeatedly asked why he was wearing a motorcycle leather vest on each of the 21 times that police intercepted him on the road?

Report: http://tinyurl.com/lw8vcok

Video: http://tinyurl.com/pcma6y8

For months, motorcyclists in Queensland going about their law-abiding business have had their privacy and personal freedoms violated by over-zealous police officers desperate to bump up the statistics for their masters. “These criminals are infiltrating your rides,” police squealed to groups of veterans, charity run participants and social riders. “The bikies will use the cover of your legitimacy to go about their evil, drug dealing, gun-toting business!” police bleated to Sunday motorcycle ride enthusiasts.

And yet not one bikie was ever found to have infiltrated a group of ordinary motorcyclists. Not one. The Minister says so.

Riders were even told to register their intentions to ride their perfectly legal motorcycle on a perfectly legal public road in some misguided attempt to protect themselves from arbitrary police interference into their personal lives. Despite Minister Dempsey’s insistence that the short term pain was worth it, and that innocent riders had nothing to fear, the dogged harassment continued.

For nothing. Nothing at all. There were no bogeymen bikies lurking in groups of Sunday riders.

That no ordinary motorcyclist has been charged is not a success, Mr Dempsey. It is a failure. It is a failure by the Queensland government to acknowledge that motorcyclists are not criminals simply because they ride a bike.

The government did its best to vilify, ostracise and eliminate anyone who dared ride a big motorcycle, wore leathers, and sported tattoos. But the public is smarter than the politicians: they knew you cannot distinguish between an ordinary motorcyclist and a so-called criminal bikie club member who is not displaying his distinctive patches.

The government, which writes the law, and the police, who enforce the law, should realise it is impossible to tell, just by looking, stopping, searching and harassing a person, if they are a criminal. A criminal is someone who has actually committed an offence, proven in a court of law by producing evidence of wrongdoing. Criminality is not stamped on a person’s forehead as a visible identifier for an over-zealous police officer to see.

The boast that no recreational motorcyclists have been arrested despite six months of dedicated harassment is an admission of failing the people of Queensland. It is a failure of the police department and police:

  • to get real ‘intelligence’;
  • to manage police resources effectively;
  • to build productive and positive relationships with the public (especially motorcycle riders); and
  • to fight the real, major crime waves that Queenslanders worry about.

One of the sainted Peelian guidelines for an ethical police force is: “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it”.

Since October 2013, 186,156 offences have apparently been reported in Queensland. Even on Minister Dempsey’s best spinning of the figures, so-called bikies and associates are allegedly responsible for 2274 of these. Just 1.2%. That doesn’t sound like success to me: why haven’t the police been concentrating on the 98.8% of other crime being committed daily against Queenslanders, like burglary and robbery and car stealing, and corporate fraud?

Nine hundred and forty six bikies and associates have been charged for allegedly committing 2274 offences. Minister Dempsey trumpets these figures as a massive win on every count. However these charges are nothing but police allegations; untested, unproven and (almost certainly in many cases) entirely false?

The public have no way of knowing how many of those charged are actual members of criminal bikie clubs, or how many are “associates” – as self-defined, by police. In an interview in July 2013, Detective Inspector Gary Watts, from Taskforce Hydra, the “bikie taskforce”, went to great pains to say that associates are not bikies and should not be treated as such.

But the Minister appears to be untroubled by such fact. Of course, all the Minister’s “made-for-media” spin is nonsense. Charges mean nothing. What actually count are convictions. And so far there are none. No-one has been paid reward money for dobbing in a bikie – because nothing has been proven.

Empty Woodford prison facilities.
Empty Woodford prison facilities.

According to recent (May 2014) media reports, there are no longer any bikies being held in solitary confinement in Woodford prison, the “special prison” created by the Queensland government to house bikies only.

The public should be quizzing police about just how many of those charged are actually who the police say they are, and questioning Minister Dempsey about why his government is willing to treat 98.2% of crimes committed in Queensland as less important offences.

crippsEva Cripps is a freelance writer, a motorcyclist, and advocate for civil liberties and justice. She has a Bachelor of Laws (First Class Honours). She is a member of Civil Liberties Australia.



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