Its been a quiet week(end)…So the Hells Angels have come and gone – in-so-far as any actually showed up in Lake County.
By: Greg Hull, Lake County News Chronicle
So the Hells Angels have come and gone – in-so-far as any actually showed up in Lake County.
Apparently the number that crossed the county line was far from a legion. Very far.
So was it all much ado about nothing? Was it merely some faint-hearted worrywarts crying “Wolf!”?
Maybe. Maybe not. The problem is that it is really difficult to know for sure after the fact. In some respects, it was a no-win situation for local law enforcement. If they didn’t prepare, and something serious would have happened, they would have been criticized and condemned for not doing their job. If they did muster forces, and nothing happened, then they are accused of over-reacting.
Certainly part of the reason for so few bikers of any stripe had to do with the weather. The thunderstorms that were moving through the area from Friday to Sunday had to have dampened the enthusiasm for anyone on a motorcycle to ride up the Shore to Highway 1, and thence to Ely. Especially if your sleeping bag was bungied on the back of your bike, and it wasn’t in a water proof cover.
In an effort to get a firsthand look at what might, or might not happen, I spent Friday afternoon and evening riding with Lake County Sheriff deputies around the area. For those of you who saw me in the backseat of a squad with two deputies in front, now you know. I wasn’t misbehaving, this time anyway.
While there wasn’t much biker activity, there were other things happening. One was a report of a RV on fire along Highway 61 near Gooseberry Park. I once listened to former State Trooper Dan Thomasen explain to Representative Oberstar about the difficulty of getting to an emergency on 61 because there was no room for cars to pull off and get out of the way. To hear about it is one thing – to ride in the squad is another experience all together. I think the local politicians who are attempting to get funding to upgrade that road should do all within their power to bring the representative back to his district, and give him such a ride. It might be motivational and educational for the congressman. Hopefully he has a stout constitution.
Fortunately, other squads were closer, and the RV was merely smoking, not on fire. Yet, the right people got to the scene before us, and took care of things. But that was due in part to the number of law enforcement on duty – on the possibility that bikers would be in the area.
I also got a first-hand look at some of the equipment upgrades that our local patrol vehicles have been fitted with. They included new radios with expanded capabilities for communicating with other agencies around the state. Our squads now have on-board notebook computers giving Internet access to deputies as they patrol. These are high-tech gadgets that Dick Tracey only dreamed of.
None of this was funded with money from Lake County taxpayers. Because of a variety of factors, including that the Hells Angels have been identified as committing acts of terrorism, and that we are a border county, Sheriff Carey Johnson was able to obtain a $330,000 Stonegarden grant from the Department of Homeland Security to pay for the upgraded equipment. It also funded the overtime costs for the increased weekend patrols. This means, in short, that the Hells Angels did have a significant impact on our local economy. Just not in the bars.
(Before too many are motivated to write me about an inconsistency between lauding federal tax money for law enforcement, but not supporting nationalized health care, let me point out that law enforcement is a constitutionally mandated function of government. Health care isn’t. But I digress.)
Another benefit from the threat of the bikers paying a visit to us was what amounted to a training exercise for all of the various agencies. DNR, Minnesota State Patrol and our own local sheriff and police were working together to be ready for any incident that might arise. That’s not to imply that these departments haven’t or don’t work together. Certainly they do. But this provided an exercise for seeing how the systems will work in a setting other than the routine.
So it was a quiet weekend. But quiet is good. Quiet is part of why we live here. If the best defensive is a good offense, we can be assured that our county has an excellent defense, and one even better prepared with equipment, training and experience than it was before. So the quiet should continue, regardless of who threatens to visit the area.
Maybe we need to send the Hells Angels headquarters a thank-you note.
Greg Hull is owner and operator of Hull’s Sawmill.
He has never gotten over his fear of riding motorcycles, especially on gravel roads, like the one he lives on.
His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.