Friday, June 12

THE ED: WHO’S THE BAD GUY HERE?


Hell, now that former Blenheim cop Anthony Bridgeman has been found guilty and punished for his actions (which seriously injured two motorcycle riders and wrote off their bikes) in the Buller Gorge in 2007 I’m not sure what to think about the case.
Originally, or at least in my mind anyway, it was cut and dry.
“The guy was an idiot,” I thought, when I read about how, determined to pursue bike riders Martin Collins and Brent Russell, he tried to do a three point turn on a narrow, blind corner.
It wasn’t just me thinking that either.
As contributor Racing Dave said….. ‘imagine if it had been a logging truck (instead of two guys on motorbikes)...coming around the corner...’
And so my mind was made up.
As so often happens when tragedy strikes, one moment’s inattention, one nano-second’s stupidity and the lives of two otherwise ordinary, law-abiding middle-aged family men were changed forever.
However. And it’s a big however. I’m having a little bit of trouble getting my head round the punishment.
Now retired from the police force after 35 years service, Bridgeman has lost his driver’s licence for 12 months (fair enough), been ordered to undertake 100 hours community service (ditto) and also been ordered to make reparation of $60,000 to the two riders (eh?).
Bridgeman’s defence lawyer pissed me off big time when I saw him on TV try to somehow shift the blame of the accident from his client to Collins and Russell, implying that they were ‘speeding’ and (by implication deserved all they got). But that’s his job. One he can have.
What concerns me more, however, is that Bridgeman now seems to be on his own.
We all know, for instance, despite the various top cops coming out on TV and in print denying it, that Highway Patrolmen like him have been operating under some sort of ‘quota’ system for years.
If you ride a motorcycle, no matter how conservative and reactionary you are, you’ll also know that the cops target us. In fact, if I had never thrown a leg over a motorcycle I’m sure I’d have a different view of the way the Police and policing in general works because it’s been as a motorcycle rider rather than a car, van or ute driver that I’ve seen the ugly side of law enforcement. That said, I can’t help but feel sorry for Bridgeman. And I certainly hope it’s the Police stumping up the $60K not Bridgeman himself.
I’d also like to think that Police HQ would learn a lesson from the whole sorry saga and change they way they view ‘pursuits.’ Only days after Bridgeman’s brain-snap a young guy was knocked off his bike here in Auckland by a cop doing a U-turn (I thought they were illegal!) and a week or so later I had to slow down and swerve to avoid a cop doing the same just south of Maramarua.
Talk about rubbing salt into the wound. I probably wouldn’t mind if – on a daily basis – I found my life threatened by evil boyracers skidding around in their Mum’s BMWs trying to kill me. But I don’t. In fact the big problem I fi nd myself facing when I venture out on the open road these days is globules of slow-moving cars sitting at between 80 and 95km/h ruining what would otherwise be reasonably good 100-115km/h flow.
And you know why that is don’t you?
That’s right, it’s because Police HQ have elevated exceeding the speed limit to a status it simply does not deserve – that of a serious crime. The wrong speed in the wrong place (120 km/h past a school at three in the afternoon) is certainly up there with rape, assault, grievous bodily harm etc etc.
But the vast majority of us – particularly road-riding motorcyclists – are being lumped together with scumbags and career criminals for what?
Riding a bike that ‘looks’ like it goes fast?
Riding a bike at 110-115 km/h on a clear piece of road on a nice day?
And before you start writing in supporting the Police, please note that Kiwi Rider promotes the responsible use of high-performance road bikes by doing the lion’s share of the testing and photography of them on closed circuits like Pukekohe Park Raceway. It costs us at least $1,000 a day but it’s our way of saying that if you want to enjoy speed you have to act responsibly. We also support both basic and advanced rider instruction and have, over the years, played a key role in setting up and running Track Days and the successful BMW Return to Riding programme.
The point I’m trying to make – and one I’ve touched on several times in the past - is that it is time the Police took a long, hard look at themselves and the way they administer the country’s speed limits with particular focus on their policy in regards to ‘pursuits.’

What do you think? Should the Police review their policy on 'pursuits' in the wake of the carnage their cops are causing with their (illegal?) U-turns on busy roads?



As always, we welcome your views on the subject which you can e-mail to me at editor@kiwirider.co.nz or leave a comment below.

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