ROCK SPRINGS — This summer, two motorcycle events will bring motorcyclists through I-80 and, almost certainly, some into Rock Springs. While 99 percent will cause no problems, the one-percent might. Instructor Steve Cook said the training he is giving on Tuesday and Wednesday will prepare the Rock Springs Police Department to handle any issues that may come up.
Cook is a lecturer with Heartland Law Enforcement, located in Kansas City, and is spending the two days at Western Wyoming Community College with about two dozen law enforcement officers, including several from Rock Springs, training them in how best to handle potentially difficult situations with motorcyclists.
“It was something that the Rock Springs Chief of Police, Mike Lowell, and I had talked about before, about the police department here hosting and bringing a training here,” Cook said. “The chief funded this training, for not just the Rock Springs police but also for law enforcement agencies from across Wyoming. I think the city people and police here probably need to know they are in a unique situation, to have an administrator who really cares enough about a problem to foot the bill for his own people and not only his own people but for law enforcement people from across the state. That doesn’t happen often.”
Cook added that RSPD “is not picking on one group.” Instead, he said, “it’s a matter of awareness, of giving officials information they might not have and might need.”
He said the famed motorcycle club, the Hells Angels, will have a big run going to Cody at the end of July, and part of the traffic will come through this area.
“So we are giving officers here information about how best to handle contacts with them while they are going through. Things about how to deal with them, because they are a unique subculture of their own and the officers need to be able to deal with them safely and fairly and make sure the public is protected—that these guys do not cause any problems.”
He added “there are legitimate bikers and there are outlaw bikers, and there is a criminal side to it. That is what we are focused on here—the criminal side to it—not ma and pa out on a motorcycle. It’s the one percent of a criminal element among the motorcycle riders that we are concerned with here.”
Cook said he has been investigating the outlaw element in the motorcycle culture for 20 years and teaching about it for more than ten years. He said he has taught in many states, including Hawaii, Washington State, North Carolina, Arkansas, all over Florida, and in several other states.
“Outlaw motorcycle gangs are a problem in law enforcement, and they’re an under-investigated problem,” he said. “I think a lot of places turn a blind eye to it. They’re not an easy stat. You can pick up a kid on a street corner selling crack with not much effort, but these groups require time and effort and sometimes money; they are organized crime and they are sophisticated.”
Commander Matt Kessler of the RSPD agreed. “You may spend a year building a case and yet police often have to struggle just to respond to the calls they get, let alone do a large investigation. A lot of the larger police agencies, those with thousands of officers, they can do more, but they are so street gang-minded that they spend little or no resources on this.”
Kessler said that for the Rock Springs P.D., “We do have a motorcycle gang in town here but with the coming of the motorcycle rally in Sturgis, up in South Dakota, that’s a yearly really big rally. Some of them will be on I-80 coming through here, we’ll get a lot of that coming through. Sturgis is in August. Then there is the other run, which will go along I-80 going through here to get to Cody.”
He added, “We want to prepare our officers for any issue so they can take care of them. This will prepare us to take care of any such event.