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Bikers Take Complaints About Police to City Hall

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Harassment. Intimidation. Selective enforcement of the law.

Those were the claims that motorcyclists levied against the Simi Valley Police Department at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

Bedecked in black leather or chinos, arriving on Harley-Davidsons or in sport-utility vehicles, about 30 motorcycle riders flooded the council chambers to complain about their treatment during a Sept. 7 charity poker ride. At that event--which was sponsored by the San Fernando Valley chapter of the Hells Angels and ended at the Simi Valley Elks Lodge--police arrested six people and gave citations to another 45.

Another 27 people received verbal warnings.

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Simi Valley resident Michael Mann was among the bikers with a gripe. Although he was not ticketed at the event, Mann said he witnessed others stopped for no apparent reason.

“It’s wrong,” he told council members. “It’s intimidation. It’s harassment. Our [police] department needs to be reined in sharply.”

Police Chief Randy Adams, however, has a different view of that Sunday’s events. The only people cited at the poker ride--which drew some 1,500 motorcycle enthusiasts from across Southern California--were those who did something illegal, said the chief of the nation’s safest city for places with populations greater than 100,000.

“We will not turn our heads to illegal activity in this city,” he said during the meeting.

As for the bikers’ allegations of harassment, he added, “We have not received any written complaints at the Police Department alleging improper or illegal police conduct [during] this event.”

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Adams and the City Council members said any written complaints would be thoroughly investigated. If wrongdoing occurred, appropriate action will be taken, they added.

“This is a no-tolerance city,” said City Councilman Bill Davis. “We certainly intend to keep it that way. If anyone has received a citation that they feel is unjust, I suggest they put it in writing and send it to our city manager [Mike Sedell].”

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That wasn’t enough for some motorcyclists, such as Simi Valley resident Dave Johnson, who attended the meeting.

“I, for one, would like to see an itemized bill of what this little fiasco cost the taxpayers,” he said. “I do think Simi Valley is a safe city. It’s one of the safest communist countries in America.”

Before the public comments, City Council members met in closed session to discuss a possible lawsuit stemming from the poker ride. They took no action during that session. More than a dozen law enforcement personnel from the Simi Valley Police Department and the county Sheriff’s Department monitored the event.

Tarzana attorney Allan B. Gelbard, who was ticketed at the event, said he intends to sue the city.

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The bikers believe they were targeted unfairly because of an event earlier this summer. Eight Simi Valley police officers returned their “officer of the year” plaques to the Elks after the fraternal organization’s members voted to allow the Hells Angels-sponsored event to take place.


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