Police Chiefs in Miami-Dade County to Discuss Large Group of Motorcycle and ATV Riders

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Police Chiefs in Miami-Dade County to Discuss Large Group of Motorcycle and ATV Riders:

MBPD Chief: “It’s a very serious safety problem”

Concerned residents took to social media this weekend when another large group of ATV, dirt bike, and motorcycle riders made their way from Miami into Miami Beach, weaving in and out of traffic and, according to one witness, coming up onto the sidewalk on Ocean Drive.
Part of the December 9th incident was documented on the Instagram account of a rider who goes by the handle MiamiSkeet. It shows riders performing tricks and weaving around cars on Collins Avenue.

Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates said the number of unannounced rides through all of Miami-Dade County has become more frequent after starting out as an annual Martin Luther King Day event known as “Wheels Up, Guns Down” usually occurring on I-95.  He said he didn’t know if this was the same group but it has become a “very serious safety problem” throughout the County.
Following this weekend’s ride, Oates said he received an invitation to a regional meeting of police chiefs next week to discuss the group and what law enforcement agencies can do. He noted the riders come to Miami Beach from the County and return to the County "riding through any number of jurisdictions" which is the reason for the regional meeting.
In the past year he said the group has been on Miami Beach only four or five times “but the point is it used to only happen on that one major holiday and now it’s becoming more frequent.”
Oates said he has heard from concerned residents. “It’s very dangerous behavior and I can tell you that, collectively, law enforcement leadership in the County is concerned and we’re going to pull our resources and see what we can do to stop this, but for all the obvious reasons it’s not going to be easy.” 
He emphasized "how difficult it is to arrest somebody on a motorcycle who’s weaving in and out of traffic going the wrong way.” He shared the Department’s policy on “pursuit and emergency operations of police vehicles” which went into effect in July of 2000 under Police Chief Carlos Noriega and was revised in 2009. It states, “It is the policy of the Department to consider the welfare and safety of officers, the general public and suspect when utilizing Department vehicles in emergency and pursuit situations.”
Following are some excerpts from the very detailed seven-page document:
  • Pursuits shall be initiated only when an officer has a reasonable belief that a violent felony has been or will be committed.  All other pursuits are prohibited. 
  • A violent felony involves violence or the threat of violence to another person. Such crimes include murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, armed robbery, sexual battery, aggravated battery, aggravated assault or any other felony which includes the use or threat of physical force or violence to a person. 
  • Engaging in a pursuit is tantamount to the decision to use deadly force. 
  • In reaching the decision to pursue, officers and supervisors shall consider if the seriousness of the offense warrants a pursuit, whether the need for apprehension justifies a pursuit and if a pursuit under the existing conditions presents an unreasonable hazard to life and property. 
The following actions shall be prohibited:
1.     Deliberate officer initiated contact between vehicles, 
2.     Forcing the pursued vehicle into parked cars, ditches or other obstacles; 
3.     Boxing in;
4.     Pit maneuvers;
5.     Heading off; 
6.     Ramming;
7.     Driving alongside the pursued vehicle while it is in motion. 
Officers engaged in a pursuit shall: 
1.    Operate the vehicle in a manner that does not endanger life and property;  
2.    Drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway. 
“We’re not in the business of chasing vehicles for minor traffic infractions,” Oates said. Officers only pursue in the case of the most serious kinds of offenses such as homicide and kidnapping “because the danger to the community is so extraordinary when people are speeding away in a vehicle.”
The problem with this group of riders is different than the issue faced by Miami Beach on Spring Break this year which was “groups of five or ten people on motor scooters riding around South Beach,” Oates said. “These guys are riding motorcycles, dirt bikes, ATVs that are souped up. They're showcasing their higher-end motorcycles whereas opposed to the issue on Spring Break it is the small rented scooters,” though he said “some of the behaviors are the same, riding around cars and they don't obey traffic laws.”
The police chiefs meeting will take place on Monday.
Photo: Screen shot from MiamiSkeet Instagram video

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