Motorcycle Riders Make 'Noise' Over HPD Cop
Updated: Wednesday, 10 Nov 2010, 11:17 PM CST
Published : Wednesday, 10 Nov 2010, 11:17 PM CST
HOUSTON - Some of these guys are the first to admit they can look a little intimidating.
"I'm not a criminal," bike rider Jeffery Wooten said. "I may look like one but I'm not a criminal."
But Wooten and scores of other bike riders say they're being made to feel like criminals veteran Houston Police officer Rick Holtsclaw.
"Everybody out here has the right to ride these things," Pat Wilkins said.
They say they're being harassed by Holtsclaw because they ride motorbikes.
"I feel he is truly targeting us," Vertis William's said.
"I think it's ridiculous, it's horrible," Alexandria Blankenship said.
"I just feel like he's picking on us," Wilkins added.
And none of these bikers seem to know why.
"It seems awfully personal to me,” biker Dan Schmidt said.
"This guy's got a rub against somebody that has ridden a motorcycle before and he's carrying it to the beat," bike rider Larry Howell said.
The bikers claim officer Holtsclaw has taken the city's noise ordinance that prohibits noisy vehicles to the extreme.
"He gives me a ticket for loud engine," Wilkins said. "Now I don't know what do you do?"
Through websites and blogs, bike riders warn each other to stay away from Highway 6 and Westheimer or be prepared to get pulled over and ticketed by Holtsclaw for "causing excessive noise by a loud engine."
"As if he's laying in wait and that's his sole purpose," Chris Fletcher said.
"Officer Holtsclaw pulled over four of our customers right in front of our business," said David Harvey, co-owner of The Damn Ice House.
Harvey said Holtsclaw is ruining his business which caters to bikers. Harvey said he's even seen Holtsclaw pull over cops on motorcycles.
"And all of em were like, ‘Guy we're police officers. I think we know the law as well.’ I don't care here's the ticket," Harvey said.
Check this out.
We're told this is a retired police motorbike - a Harley Davidson with stock parts.
"It's 86 to 85 decimals," Mike Ray tells us as he looks at a decimal reader. "By police specifications that's illegal. By the standards that Houston puts out, their bikes are exceeding the noise levels."
"Why pull me over again when I haven't even gone to court yet," Vertis Williams asked.
Williams, whose gotten 3 tickets from Holtsclaw, is just one of at least three bikers who have filed complaints with the Houston Police Department.
"They basically told me they were looking into the matter. That they had received several complaints," Williams said.
According to a police union official, Holtsclaw's supervisor and a city prosecutor questioned whether the city's noisy vehicle ordinance could be used against motorcycles calling it a "gray area.” But a city legal opinion ruled it was enforceable and that cleared the way for Holtsclaw to continue writing bike riders tickets.
"Ten minutes - the turnaround time between my ticket and this other guy," biker Larry Howell said.
According to figures FOX 26 Investigates obtained from the city's municipal court system, Holtsclaw has written 200 citations for noisy vehicles in the last 9 months.
Most bikers just pay the $250 fine.
"I paid the fine cause I can't take off work," Fletcher said.
Holtsclaw was in court with 39 cases, all noisy vehicle citations which a police source described as "highly unusual." Those ticketed pointed out to the judge the officer had no meter to gauge the decimal level. They asked how their bikes could have passed state inspection if they truly are too noisy.
"It's totally subjective," Terry Franklin said. "How loud is too loud?"
While most of those who fought the ticket lost, Franklin won his trial by judge.
"I believe the open interpretation of an officer of this law is not right," Franklin said.
We tried to get officer Holtsclaw's side of the story. He didn't return our calls. That could be because the on-going Internal Affairs investigation prohibits him from commenting.
The bikers have started an on-line petition and already have some 500 names. Their next move: a ride to City Hall to address the Mayor and city council.