By Betsy Z. Russell
The bill, which passed the House unanimously, was defeated in the Senate Wednesday on a 22-13 vote.
Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Moscow, a former police officer, spoke out forcefully against the bill.
“We don’t need this bill – I think that’s a fact,” he said. “We already have laws on the books that tell police officers they cannot do what we’re saying they are doing. We cannot pull someone over for no reason other than the fact that they’re wearing a leather jacket or riding a Harley-Davidson – that’s against the law.”
Several senators said they’d spoken with their local sheriffs or other law enforcement and learned there had been no complaints of motorcycle profiling or that law enforcement opposed the bill.
“I’m concerned about the need for this legislation when there are no complaints filed in Idaho that I can find,” said Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston.
Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, said his local sheriff told him if the bill became law a motorcycle gang member wearing colors who was stopped for probable cause would get a plausible defense.
Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, told a story about being pulled over many years ago and questioned by an officer about whether he had been drinking. He said he was targeted because he had Idaho Senate plates and another senator had been cited for driving under the influence that year.
Davis said he complained the next day and the officer apologized.
“It still troubles me a little bit that just because I was a senator … I got pulled over,” he said. “That still just troubles me to no end.”
But Davis said he also contacted his local sheriff.
“He tells me, ‘Bart, don’t take all of the arrows from my quiver,’ and that the wording here isn’t the right wording,” Davis said.
The bill would have banned motorcycle profiling by state or local law enforcement, which it defines as “the arbitrary use of the fact that a person rides a motorcycle or wears motorcycle-related paraphernalia as a factor in deciding to stop and question, take enforcement action, arrest or search a person or vehicle.”
In 2011, Washington passed a further-reaching law, which also included requirements for training for law enforcement. Advocates said complaints about motorcycle profiling there dropped 90 percent after the anti-profiling law took effect.
“This bill is consistent with good police practices, which relies on conduct for making a stop,” said Sen. Jeff Agenbroad, R-Nampa, the bill’s Senate sponsor.
Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, who voted in favor of the bill, said she’d be right back supporting its repeal if it were used to justify criminal actions by gang members.
Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, moved to send the bill to the Senate’s amending order to change it to ban profiling of everyone, not just motorcyclists. But that motion died on a lopsided vote.
“To me, this is special rights legislation,” Burgoyne said. “Why just motorcyclists? The standard that’s set out in the legislation to protect motorcyclists should apply to everyone.”
Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, spoke several times during the debate.
“It would tend to remind that profiling, for First Amendment things, for what someone is wearing, for what someone is driving, all of which are legal activities, is not appropriate,” he told the Senate. Still, Rice voted against the bill.