The boys in Black and Blue

On May 29, Austin Texas Police officer Damon Dunn was just finishing up with a traffic stop. The dash camera video shows the cruiser making a U-turn, then proceeding down the street, running a stop sign at the next intersection. It also tragically shows the police vehicle hitting a motorcycle driven by 74-year-old Lewis Oliver. Officer Dunn was placed on administrative leave, but ultimately no disciplinary action was taken against him.
This is absolutely inexcusable behavior. Too many police departments foster a “sheep herder’ mentality rather than a “public servant” mentality, while creating an atmosphere of arrogant entitlement on the force. There is absolutely no room for that attitude in uniform, and the officials incapable of understanding that need to be removed from office. The authority granted an on-duty police officer should only be given to an individual who has earned the respect required to weld such power through professionalism and dedication to the serving and protecting the public. Police officials who don’t steadfastly demand that of their officers have to go.
In October 2009, the Austin Police Department recommended to the City Council an ordinance forbidding electronic messaging while operating a motor vehicle. They obviously understood the danger of such recklessness. The law makes an understandable exception for emergency vehicle operators. But this, and other exceptions to the law, are never to be accepted as “perks.” These should be understood as exceptions required for well-trained professionals to perform their duties. One would have hoped APD Chief Art Acevedo understood that when he stated that his officers are “discouraged by policy, but not prohibited, from not using their on-board computers while driving.”
Officer Dunn’s dash cam would seem to indicate otherwise, and the Police Department’s failure to hold him accountable for his inexcusable negligence smells of an above-the-law, boys-club attitude devoid of any pretense of professionalism.
Two biker forums I belong to warn member motorcyclists to stay out of Austin. If this anger continues to fester on these sites, then calls for full-out boycotts may well demonstrate to Austin city officials a point I’ve made before. The economic power of baby boomer bikers is not to be taken lightly. Council members and the police chief may also get a lesson in biker demographics at the next election. If I were running against them, I’d certainly keep a copy of this video handy.

— Guy Wheatley

6 Responses

  1. Mark Clauder Says:

    Don’t just sit there – do something! Send an email to the entire Austin City Council and ask them to revoke the police department’s “license to kill” motorcyclists with no repercussions. None.

    Here’s the address (paste it into your browser):

    http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/council/groupemail.htm

    Don’t just sit there – get to work!

  2. Charlie Seligman Says:

    Even though Officer Dunn is must likely a “good guy” as are most officers of the Austin Police Department, his gross negligence to abide to basic traffic laws is inexcusable! And the fact that no disciplinary action was taken while Mr. Olivier sat in the hospital is even worse!! It’s obvious that this issue is being prejudiced against and swept under the rug because it is a “motorcycle incident”.

    But…what is there to boycott? UT Football season is around the corner and every hotel room in Austin will be booked most weekends through Thanksgiving. The freeways are jammed every day, the stores are full and all the restaurants have waiting lines. Tax revenue will not be significantly affected by baby boomer bikers.

    I think writing to the Austin City Council would be a more effective showing of two wheel influence.

    http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/council/groupemail.htm

    The more letters and emails sent, the more our voices will be heard!

  3. Mark Clauder Says:

    While there is nothing a boycott would do, a protest might draw attention to the problem. All we need is a group of bikers concerned enough about their safety to show up at a predesignated spot and sign a petition while there. Or to fill a city council meeting.

    If this officer had hit and killed a child on a bicycle, there is no doubt the public and city would have reacted differently. Anytime a car pulls out in front of a motorcycle and the bike is crunched, all the cage driver has to say is “I didn’t see him” and then collect their “get of jail free” card. If there are laws that are unenforced just because a motorcycle is involved, then there is no law and it’s open season on bikers. If you think you have a right to ride a motorcycle on a public road and be protected by the same laws established for cagers, then you can’t sit back and do nothing. Please send emails to the Austin City Council and stir up your friends to do so as well.

  4. Jack G Says:

    Many police believe it is as much the bikers fault due to the fact that we are riding smaller vehicles with less protection.
    When I had a civilian hit me 3 yrs ago, they were slow to press charges beyond leaving the scene. I had to get MADD involved to get a prosecution. He was a parolee and nothing to sue for so I had to settle for a pound of flesh.

  5. Mark Clauder Says:

    Latest report on Mr. Oliver – he gave an interview July 7th. He may lose his leg and definitely has lost his lifestyle, yet the city is going to cap his recovery to less than his hospital bills.

    http://www.kvue.com/news/Motorcyclist-hit-by-APD-speaks-publicly-for-the-first-time-97990364.html

    Have you written an email to the Austin City Council yet?

  6. oldman Says:

    Let he who is without guilt cast the first stone.. Now I’m not talking about all you folks who are perfect and have never made a mistake while driving,I’m talking to anyone who has ever missed a stop sign, run a red light even if you were distracted by something as important as lighting a cigarette,taking a bite out of a Big Mac, looking at a map or talking on a cell phone and crossed the center line, drink a good cold beer on the way home from work or any of lifes other little distractions. Raise you hand if you can honestly say you have never come close to are could never have put anyone else driving, at risk. I agree that the officer should have been given the same pentality and fine as anyone else.Motorcyle riders whinning about everyone being out to get them should take there bikes home and park them or learn to ride with the extra risk that comes with riding.

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