PHOENIX -- A handful of Arizona Senate Republicans joined with Democrats Thursday to reject a bill requiring that police be trained about the illegality of pulling over motorcyclists based solely on their clothing or the fact they're riding motorcycles.
The bill by Republican Sen. Judy Burges of Sun City West drew hundreds of patch-wearing motorcycle club members to a committee hearing earlier this month. They complained they were constantly harassed by law enforcement officers simply because they wore ``colors'' and rode motorcycles.
But Democrats pushed back Thursday, joined by Republican Sen. Steve Yarbrough of Chandler, who argued against creating a new class of protected people and called it the first step toward micromanaging police training.
``Are we going to indeed create a new class of protected persons, and once we do that I can suggest other groups- how about military people, how about young people, how about little old ladies with gray hair?''
Burges urged the full Senate to pass her bill Thursday, saying she did not believe it created a protected class and saying it ``is kind of frustrating when you're pulled over and somebody points a gun at you.''
In the end the bill failed 14-14, with two members absent.
``The guys worked very hard, they came down and lobbied members of the Legislature, so I'm of course sure they're very, very disappointed today,'' Burges said after her bill failed. ``They had certain expectations, bless their hearts, but I couldn't make it happen for them.''
The bill was opposed by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, known as AzPOST, the entity that oversees police training and certification in the state. Executive director Lyle Mann has said it would write a hard and fast rule barring law enforcement action in certain situations, instead of allowing officers to act based on reasonable suspicion and probable cause from a totality of the situation.
The bikers who packed the Senate hearing room Feb. 6 complained they were often stopped, held at gunpoint and detained for hours just because they wore their motorcycle club colors.
``I was surprised that the Democratic caucus voted as a block in that they generally stand for freedom and civil rights of people,'' said John Dreyfus, who was representing the Arizona Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs and is a member of the ALMA Motorcycle Club. ``In this case they decided that bikers generally don't deserve the same civil rights as everybody else.
``We're facing situations where they're pointing guns at our heads on a regular basis, and it's getting more intense,'' Dreyfus said. ``The more often this goes on the greater the chance that somebody's going to end up dead.''
But Democratic Sen. Steve Gallardo said it's simple enough for members of clubs like the Hells Angels and other so-called ``outlaw'' gangs to avoid such encounters.
``That 1 percent patch symbolizes that these are folks who live outside the law,'' Gallardo said. ``So if you don't want to be profiled, stop wearing those patches.''