CITY OF HOUSTON
INTER OFFICE CORRESPONDENCE
Charles A. McClelland, Jr.
Rickey D.Holtsclaw, Officer
|Chief of Police||Westside Division|
|DATE:||January 14, 2011|
|SUBJECT:||Complaint of Vertis L. Williams|
|Issue Record #38077-2010|
I, Officer R. D. Holtsclaw, Employee #68560, am currently assigned to the West Patrol Command, Westside Division, Shift I.
On January 14, 2011, I was ordered to submit this statement by Sergeant F. J. Bush of the Internal Affairs Division. I submit to questioning at his order as a condition of employment. In view of possible job forfeiture, I have no alternative but to abide by this order.
It is my belief and understanding that the Department requires this interrogation solely and exclusively for internal purposes and will not release the results to any other agency. It is my further belief that the results of this interrogation will not and cannot be used against me in any subsequent proceedings other than disciplinary proceedings within the confines of the Department itself.
Sergeant Bush has asked that I respond to the following questions regarding the allegations and concerns of Mr. Vertis Williams.
How did you come to be involved in the alleged incident?
In order to properly answer this question in its entirety, I would like to provide the reader with some background regarding my noise enforcement initiative.
First, let it be known that I have ridden motorcycles, off and on, for some forty years. I have ridden professionally; spent most of the 1980’s in the HPD Solo Motorcycle Detail; have owned and maintained thirty motorcycles since age twelve; accumulated hundreds of thousands of miles on two wheels; used motorcycles for work, commuting, traveling; have participated in distance tours such as a mid-America tour, West Coast tour, Iron Butt type tours such as a three week round trip from Houston to Anchorage Alaska; sport-bike distance tours from Houston to Vancouver, British Columbia in addition to sport-bike Iron Butt type rides from cities in Florida. I am very familiar with motorcycles, the mechanics and operation of motorcycles and I am familiar with motorcyclists in general.
I am sadden and disheartened that an unprincipled faction within the “loud” motorcycle community has successfully deceived, via obfuscation, certain influential members of my Police Department and Houston’s City Council. Unprincipled men and women within the “loud” motorcycle community have coalesced to successfully subvert my vehicular noise initiative while the biased news media, specifically Randy Wallace of Fox 26 News and Steven Dean of News 2 Houston, have used their influence to propagate lies and exaggerations regarding my noise enforcement efforts.
When I began my vehicular noise enforcement initiative, I was immediately confronted with two deeply engrained mindsets. First, Texas law enforcement has been, and continues to be, completely remiss in its enforcement of vehicular noise laws. Houston, H-town or Horse Town Texas, has completely neglected the ever increasing vehicular noise problem. Law enforcement is ignorant of the dangers relevant to excessive noise in our environment. HPD officers are apathetic regarding noise enforcement while others actively participate in this obnoxious and illegal behavior. Apparently, HPD’s leadership simply desires to maintain it liability oriented policing status, a façade of police service void substance.
City Legal has failed to provide law enforcement with a vehicular noise ordinance that provides a strong objective standard thereby making any enforcement effort basically impotent. Houston’s Municipal Court system is antiquated and ineffective; its interpretation of justice has been completely perverted by its inability to efficiently process the traffic law violations awaiting adjudication within its jurisdiction. The acquisition of money is the primary motivation of the municipal court system while providing an effective deterrent to vehicular oriented violations is barely an afterthought.
The resultant of this enforcement and judicial apathy has created two deeply engrained mindsets that deter any change in the current unacceptable status quo relevant to noise enforcement in Houston Texas.
Purveyors, advocates and participants in the operation of loud motor vehicles have operated unhindered in Texas for such a long period of time that there is a sense of “entitlement” and “expectancy” within this unprincipled contingent. The loud motorcycle community flaunts their dangerous noise in the face of law enforcement and openly violate the Constitutional rights of the citizenry that law enforcement swore to protect, but absolutely nothing is done to stop it. This dangerous mindset was reinforced for years by Spuntik Strain who ensured that by 1996, the entire Texas State House and Senate were run by biker majorities; therefore, any proactive initiative pertaining to noise enforcement in the City of Houston or the State of Texas was severely hindered by a conflict of interest. Until recently, the legislative body in the Texas House and Senate was inundated with motorcycle riders and enthusiasts who were easily swayed by lobbyists opposing more stringent laws relevant to motorcycle noise suppression.
Apathetic law enforcement combined with impotent noise enforcement legislation has allowed vehicular noise violations to continue completely unhindered in Texas for many years. This neglect by our legislators and law enforcement to protect its citizenry from the abuse of excessive vehicular noise in the environment has resulted in a form of “societal ignorance” regarding the effects of noise on human physiology and quality of life issues. For example, most people erroneously believe that motorcycles were designed to be loud and intrusive. The motorcycle noise, such as that emitted by illegal aftermarket exhaust mechanisms, permeates the confines of residential structures, automobiles, places of work and worship. This obnoxious and dangerous exhaust noise has been tolerated for such a long period of time that only the knowledgeable object to its unlawful and physically harmful intrusion. Others patiently accept this unlawful intrusion on their freedoms and are unaware of the physiological ramifications of excessive noise.
I am also saddened that my Police Department and Houston’s Municipal Court system has failed to support me in my efforts to protect the citizenry within my area of responsibility from the dangers and unconstitutional intrusion of noise emanating from excessively loud motor vehicles. The Municipal Court has made a laughing stock of my enforcement efforts while Legal Services has begun to retreat from its initial legal decision which supported the applicability and enforceability of City Ordinance 30-3, “Noisy Vehicles Generally.” I find it ironic that I have been embarrassingly removed from my patrol assignment, investigated for allegations of harassment; when, if the truth be known, I am the only one who has truly been harassed. The harassment I have suffered is the resultant of my efforts to simply do the right thing as I endeavored to stand against those who violate the rights of others to enjoy domestic tranquility and a peaceful environment.
Mr. Vertis Williams and Norma Cooper are only two of the many individuals who participate in the selfish behavior of operating an illegally loud motorcycle. Mr. Williams and Ms. Cooper, along with many others, have coalesced to subvert my enforcement efforts. For a more thorough understanding of the tactics used by activists representing the advocates of loud motorcycles, simply Google “HPD Holtsclaw motorcycle noise tickets” to view the comments of local and national motorcycle organizations as they coalesce to battle against my noise enforcement initiative. Note the threats and vulgarity used by these unprincipled men and women who flaunt their antisocial behavior in the face of law enforcement. For example, visit the following Websites to view the subversive efforts of Mr. Williams and Norma Cooper in conjunction with the Texas Motorcycle Rights Association as they directly attack my efforts to stand against the use of illegally loud exhaust mechanisms on motorcycles.
http://www.bayareavtwins.com/COC/TMRA2_NH_Sept_Newsletter.pdf (Beginning Page 5)
Each and every motorcyclist receiving a citation from me for having operated an excessively loud motorcycle has been in violation of Federal law, Texas Transportation Code 547.604 and City of Houston Ordinance 30-3.
Federal Regulations/Motorcycle Exhaust Systems
Mr. Williams, according to his interview recorded on compact disk, would have you believe that only certain motorcycles in a particular production run have the EPA label on their exhaust mechanism. This is not true. Each and every exhaust mechanism that complies with the 80 decibel EPA noise emission maximum is imprinted with an EPA label that is supposed to be readily visible for inspection. Removing or tampering with an EPA approved exhaust mechanism is illegal. The owner’s manual that accompanies the purchase of a new motorcycle warns the owner that tampering with the exhaust system is prohibited and illegal.
None of the aftermarket exhausts mechanisms I have cited were endorsed or approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. The only exhaust mechanisms I have cited displaying the proper EPA label were systems that had been illegally modified e.g. the muffler was cut open and portions of the baffling were removed or the baffling had been cut away from the tail section.
The EPA sets the maximum noise emissions levels by measurement under a strict scientifically derived testing procedure (SAE j331a) to recreate the vehicles’ maximum noise levels while under heavy acceleration. This test represents what can be expected in actual real world use. Currently, the maximum noise emissions are 80 db(A) for street motorcycles. This current noise emissions limit (or cap) offers the MINIMUM level of protection to the public.
Once the motorcycle successfully passes the noise emissions test (J331a), two labels (one on the vehicle chassis, the other on the vehicle muffler) are required to be affixed in a “readily visible position” at the factory. Both of these labels contain an identical model specific code (along with other information) that is unique to the make and model of the motorcycle. The comparison of the model specific code between the two labels provides a way to “match up” the muffler to the motorcycle.
A regulated motorcycle that has an exhaust system installed without the correct label (i.e. competition use, pre regulation, export only, or no label at all) or has an exhaust system from a different make and model of motorcycle (un-matching model specific codes), is in violation of federal regulations and section 4909a(2) of the Noise Control Act (NCA).
The first is the “motorcycle noise emissions control information label” affixed to the motorcycle chassis (as defined and required by 40 CFR205.158). This label includes the model year, a model specific code that only appears on an approved muffler designed for a specific vehicle, engine rpm during federal test procedure, the statement “this motorcycle meets EPA noise emissions requirements of either 83dba or 80dba” and a warning that “tampering” is in violation of federal law.
The second is the “exhaust system noise emissions control information label” to be affixed on the quiet and tested muffler (as defined and required by 40CFR205.169a(1). This muffler label (in general) states that the exhaust system meets EPA noise emissions requirements and includes the manufacturer’s name, noise emissions limit, and a unique model specific code that only appears on a motorcycle this exhaust system is designed for.
All of the above exhaust systems (bold above), when installed on a federally regulated motorcycle constitutes a violation of section 4909(a)2 of the Noise Control Act (NCA). In addition, the absence of a muffler label is also a violation of section 4909(a)1 which is applicable to the manufacturers.
Texas Transportation Code 547.604
§ 547.604. MUFFLER REQUIRED. (Texas Transportation Code)
(a) A motor vehicle shall be equipped with a muffler in good working condition that continually operates to prevent excessive or unusual noise.
(b) A person may not use a muffler cutout, bypass, or similar device on a motor vehicle.
Houston City Ordinance 30-3
Sec. 30-3. – Noisy vehicles generally. (Houston City Ordinance)
The use of any motor vehicle so out of repair, so loaded, or so noisy that it creates any loud and unreasonable grating, grinding, rattling, or any other loud and unreasonable sound is hereby prohibited and declared to be unlawful.
Approximately two years ago, after spending nineteen and one-half years in the HPD Air Support Division, I returned to patrol duty. Having been trained some thirty years earlier in patrol responsibilities, I did as I had been instructed…each officer was responsible for taking care of his beat assignment. Among a number of problems I discovered in 20G80’s beat, was the large number of excessively loud motor vehicles traversing the Highway 6/Westheimer area.
Between my calls-for-service responsibilities, I began issuing citations to automobiles, trucks and motorcycles for violations of Texas Transportation Code 547.604 “Muffler Required.” Seeing that the data entry section of Houston’s Municipal Court routinely failed to attach the correct charging instrument with the Texas Transportation Code violation, I was subsequently advised by my shift lieutenant, Lieutenant Paul Ryza, that I would be better off using the applicable city ordinance.
After researching the Houston Municipal Code, it was determined that City Ordinance 30-3, “Noisy Vehicles Generally,” was the only noise ordinance applicable to noisy vehicle enforcement in Houston Texas. I was initially concerned regarding the subjectivity of City Ordinance 30-3; therefore, I researched applicable and relevant case law on the subject. In the Texas Appeals Court case of Aaron C. Aguilar v. State of Texas (2008), the perceived subjectivity of Texas Transportation Code 547.604, “Muffler Required,” was at issue. Judge Catherine Stone, in her memorandum opinion, clarifies that “the terms “excessive” and “unusual” noise, although not explicitly based on a reasonable person objective standard, are terms that imply that noise must be outside normal standards for motor vehicles, which ordinary persons can objectively determine.” Apparently, the same reasoning could easily be applied to the “unreasonable” element required in City Ordinance 30-3.
After issuing a number of these citations to automobiles, trucks and motorcycles, Sergeant Mark Miller, my patrol sergeant at the time, ordered me to cease issuance of the noisy vehicle citations. Sergeant Miller stated he felt the law was too vague and subjective. Unfortunately, Sergeant Miller advocates and participates in this obnoxious behavior, I therefore considered his opinion to be biased and suspect. I presented Sergeant Miller with relevant case law, but I was again ordered to stand down relevant to my noisy vehicle enforcement initiative.
I subsequently wrote a letter to Legal Services via my chain-of-command and requested a legal opinion regarding the applicability of City Ordinance 30-3. After five months had passed, I was summoned to the office of Captain Mary Lentschke, my Divisional Commander. Captain Lentschke, with Lieutenant Paul Ryza and Sergeant Michael Mikeska in attendance, offered me an apology from Chief Charles McClelland for having made me wait five months for a legal opinion from Legal Services. Captain Lentschke then advised me that City of Houston Ordinance 30-3, according to Legal Services, was “constitutional and enforceable” and the order given by Sergeant Mark Miller to cease enforcement of the noisy vehicle ordinance was rescinded. I then began, once again, issuing citations to automobiles, trucks and motorcycles for violations of City Ordinance 30-3, “Noisy Vehicles Generally.”
Though I have also issued numerous citations during the previous year to automobiles and light trucks for violating the vehicle noise ordinance, only the operators of unreasonably loud motorcycles have incessantly cried foul. Seeing that I am one of the few, if not the only Texas peace officer to stand against the exponential rise in the number of unreasonably loud motor vehicles in Houston, I have become the target of numerous complaints and investigations initiated by area motorcyclists. Though I have digital audio, including video in some cases, to refute the spurious allegations and blatant lies of the loud motorcycle community, the Houston Police Department lacks the forthrightness to support my efforts to file perjury charges on violators of Texas Penal Code 37.02 (a:1), Perjury.
The spurious charge of “harassment” has been alleged against me for no other reason than the fact that my noise enforcement initiative, on the surface, appears to be excessive, unusual, unfair, abusive, when in truth, I am simply the only Texas law enforcement officer, to my knowledge, who has stood up and said enough is enough. I have brought the long time abuses of vehicular noise in Houston Texas to the forefront and those who participate in this selfish, illegal, dangerous and unconstitutional behavior have coalesced and battled against my noise enforcement initiative. I am simply the messenger who has declared a message that is long over due; unfortunately, I lack any substantive support on this vehicular noise enforcement issue seeing that my command staff, the Municipal Court system, City Council and Legal Services have failed me.
I will cease issuing citations for vehicular noise violations in the City of Houston until such time I am provided with an “objective standard” in the law. I have done everything but beg to incorporate the SAE J2825 Stationary Motorcycle Test in my noise enforcement initiative but Legal Services has rejected my request to use a sound meter. Again, I have done all I can do to bring the controversial issue of vehicular noise enforcement to the forefront; hence, the reason for my involvement in this alleged incident.
According to the Complainant, Mr. Vertis Williams, he observed you standing near the City Hall building on November 16, 2010. Is Mr. Vertis Williams’ assertion correct? Were you at or near the City of Houston, City Hall building on November 16, 2010?
No. “Near” is a relative term. On November 16, 2010, at approximately 1030 hours, a large gang of Houston area motorcyclists rode their illegally loud, illegally equipped motorcycles into the Downtown District and parked their vehicles near Houston’s City Hall. I was working an overtime assignment during this time at 611 Walker, City of Houston Public Works and Engineering building, when I heard and observed the obnoxiously loud motorcycles traverse the Downtown streets of Houston. 611 Walker is approximately two blocks east of Houston’s City Hall. I did exit 611 Walker, for reasons discussed later, and stood on the southwest corner of Smith and Walker as the gang of loud motorcyclists passed traveling westbound on Walker.
Note that my duty hours, relevant to my overtime assignment at 611 Walker on November 16, 2010, were 0600 hours to 1800 hours. I worked a double shift on the date in question.
If you were not at this location, detail your whereabouts during this time frame.
I was working an overtime assignment at the City of Houston Public Works and Engineering building located at 611 Walker when I heard and observed a large gang of motorcyclists ride their illegally loud, illegally equipped motorcycles into the Downtown District and pass, in mass, in front of 611 Walker. Having received information that these motorcycles were going to be escorted by HPD Solo’s, I exited 611 Walker and stood on the southwest corner of Smith and Walker. This positioning afforded me the opportunity to identify the unit numbers affixed to the saddlebags of the police motorcycles operated by the HPD Solo officers who were allegedly escorting this illegally equipped gang of motorcyclists.
Following, are examples of the blogs alleging that the petition ride to City Hall would be escorted by police motorcycles.
11-10-2010, 09:41 AM #947
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: NW Houston
We are going after the City of Houston with a petition on November 16th. There will be a Police Escorted ride from the County Line to Houston City Hall.
11-10-2010, 10:25 AM #950
Let me check my work schedule. If I can I’ll be there.
11-10-2010, 01:25 PM #955
Originally Posted by Grimace
BUMP for the motherfucking info! I’m down for this!!! Let’s support someone who has the balls to stand up to this asshole and do us all a favor.
Sorry Grimice, I was outside and not at the computer when you asked for the info. I am not sure of the time I have been told it’s going to be around 12 noon but thats not confirmed. It starts at the County Line Bar between Grand Mission Rd. and County Road.
11-10-2010, 02:13 PM #956
VP of Vindicta MC
The irony of this is so sweet…. the cops don’t agree with this asshole either.
So will everyone receive tickets for loud pipes at the beginning of the ride or once we arrive at City Hall?
You’re staging an organized form of protest about something that not only they DO on a regular basis but something their department condones. Don’t be so naive to think they won’t be checking license plates and inspection stickers while they “escorting you”.
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: NW Houston
And I believe (not sure), that the officers escorting the ride are some of the motor officers who were forced to change their pipes back to original (stock). They are not happy.
What time did you arrive at this location and what time did you depart?
On Tuesday, November 16, 2010, I arrived at 611 Walker at approximately 0545 hours and I departed at approximately 1805 hours.
I am not sure of the time when I walked to the southwest corner of Smith and Walker adjacent to my assignment at 611 Walker. I do know that I stood on the corner no more than perhaps three to five minutes as the loud motorcyclists passed by. Once I confirmed that the gang was not escorted by HPD Solo Motorcycles, I reentered the lobby of 611 Walker.
How were you dressed on this date? As alleged by the Complainant, Mr. Vertis Williams, were you wearing your Houston Police Department uniform? If so, explain why you were in uniform.
Yes, I was wearing my class “A” uniform. A class “A” uniform is required seeing that I was working an overtime assignment at the City of Houston Public Works and Engineering building, 611 Walker.
Did you make any gestures as the group of motorcycles went past your location? If so, detail what actions were taken by you.
Yes. As the dangerously loud motorcycles passed only feet from my location at Walker and Smith, I used by index fingers to protect my hearing.
Though I have not been permitted to use a decibel/sound meter for enforcement purposes, I have, on occasion, checked various vehicles using my personal sound meter which I routinely carry on patrol. Every one of the aftermarket exhaust mechanisms installed on the motorcycles that traversed the streets of the Downtown District on November 16, 2010 emits two-to-four times the noise emissions permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency. One might ask, well Officer Holtsclaw, how do you know this to be fact? I’ve tested these exhaust systems or their variants and know this to be true.
Example #1: Sergeant Bush, during his interview with Mr. Williams, as recorded on CD, mentioned that he had spoken with a city prosecutor who had acknowledged having adjudicated a number of my noisy engine citations. This prosecutor, while serving in Municipal Court #18, was in the process of questioning and dismissing my noisy engine citations seeing that he was skeptical as to the validity of the ordinance and my ability to fairly determine what volume of noise could be construed as “unreasonable.”
I politely interrupted the prosecutor as he was prepared to dismiss a noisy engine citation and explained to him that the defendant’s motorcycle was in the parking lot. The defendant, an owner and operator of a late model Harley Davidson FLH, had presented literature from Harley Davidson to show that his “Screaming Eagle” performance exhaust was 50 State legal. The defendant, in his defiance, even brought his own sound meter to verify that his exhaust mechanism was indeed legal. The prosecutor suggested that we go to the parking lot and listen to the exhaust in question and he would then make his own evaluation as to whether or not the noise emissions were “unreasonable.”
The prosecutor was not familiar with the SAE J2825 Stationary Motorcycle Test or the sound meter he held in his hand; therefore, the test was heavily favored in behalf of the defendant. Unaware that he had limited the sound meter to 110 db(A), the prosecutor stood behind the motorcycle and asked the defendant to start the bike. At an idle, the Screaming Eagle exhaust mechanism installed on the defendants HD FLH showed 102+ db(A), When engine power was applied to approximately 2000 RPM the sound meter pegged at 110 db(A)…only because the prosecutor failed to set the meter to allow for a higher reading. The SAE J2825 Stationary Motorcycle Test requires a reading at 20 inches/45 degree angle off the exhaust. Imagine the actual decibel output of the Screaming Eagle exhaust system if the correct testing procedures had been followed? The decibel reading is presented on a logarithmic scale; therefore, the 110 db(A) reading is approximately two to three times the allowable limit of 96 db(A) as required in the J2825 testing procedure.
Remember, the SAE J2825 Stationary Motorcycle Test is used to conduct testing in the field which replicates the controlled drive-by testing done by the EPA mandating an 80 db(A) upper limit on street motorcycles. A V-twin motorcycle tested under the parameters of the J2825 test is limited to 92 db(A) at an idle and 96 db(A) at two thousand RPM. In those jurisdictions that use the SAE J2825 test, a citation can be issued for failure to comply with the 92 db(A) idle test and a second citation can be issued for failure to comply with the 2K RPM test mandating a 96 db(A) maximum. A violator is subject to two citations for failing the SAE J2825 motorcycle test. The SAE J2825 Stationary Motorcycle Test is also sanctioned by the American Motorcycle Association who openly admits that motorcycle noise has become a problem in communities throughout the United States.
Though the noise emissions of the Screaming Eagle exhaust on the defendants Harley Davidson motorcycle is relatively mild compared to many aftermarket exhaust mechanisms I have written, you can easily determine by the test performed by the city prosecutor that the defendants motorcycle was not only a rolling nuisance but a definite danger to the citizens within my area of responsibility…especially considering the EPA has determined that hearing damage and hearing loss begins at 85 decibels. The defendant, obviously humbled by the results of the test, subsequently reentered the municipal court and paid his fine.
Example #2: On the same day in Municipal Court #18, the same city prosecutor was approached by another defendant that had received a noisy engine citation from me. This defendant was adamant that his exhaust mechanism was completely stock, it supposedly had the required EPA label on the exhaust stipulating that noise emissions were regulated to 80 db(A). The defendant, unaware that I had observed his motorcycle in the parking lot earlier, was visibly shaken as I spoke up and advised the prosecutor that the motorcycle in question was setting in the parking lot and available for inspection. According to the notes on my citation, the baffles in the OEM exhaust mechanism had been chiseled out and sharp shards of pointed metal were left for the prosecutor to inspect. I once again accompanied the city prosecutor to the parking lot to inspect the exhaust mechanism in question.
The defendant’s motorcycle, as I recall, was a rather large displacement Honda V-twin. The prosecutor had the defendant start the motorcycle which provided a rather robust exhaust note but not one that could readily be considered “unreasonable.” I advised the defendant and the prosecutor that considering the rear baffling had been removed, a true evaluation of noise emissions could not be determined without the input of engine power. The defendant was asked by the prosecutor to ride the motorcycle then rev the engine. The prosecutor, after listening to the Honda’s exhaust note under power, complained of hearing damage and stated that he was surprised a Honda motorcycle could be modified to emit such excessive noise. The defendant reentered the municipal court and paid his fine.
When testing these motorcycles on routine traffic stops, I have actually experienced pain in my ears and a startle reaction as the motorcycles were started and revved to the required RPM for evaluation. The noise emitted by these aftermarket exhaust mechanisms is dangerous, illegal and violates Federal, State and local law as well as the rights of the citizens with my area of responsibility to enjoy domestic tranquility and a peaceful environment. Seeing that hearing loss and hearing damage begins at 85 decibels, is further explanation necessary as to why I protected my hearing on November 16, 2010 as a mass of the illegally equipped motorcycles passed only feet from my location and their excessive exhaust noise reverberated off of the downtown structures? One would be foolish to not protect his hearing under these conditions.
Did you place your business card on Mr. Vertis Williams’ motorcycle or any other motorcycle on this date in the downtown area? Explain your reason for this action?
Yes. I have provided Sergeant Bush with multiple photographs on a CD taken on two subsequent Tuesday’s after the November 16, 2010 motorcycle rally at City Hall. Though I have objected, from a safety perspective, to motorcycles parking on the east and west side of 611 Walker, a Mr. Buster, Building Manager for 611 Walker, has permitted these motorcycles free access to City property. Along the east and west sides of 611 Walker, the City has placed fiberglass apparatuses that provide covered parking for bicycles. Within the last year or so, mopeds and large motorcycles have begun to park along side these bicycle racks. Seeing that I am responsible for security and safety as 611 Walker during my assignment there, I have voiced my concern with motorcycles, especially those equipped with saddlebags, parking up next to the plate glass windows that surround the ground level of 611 Walker.
I will, on occasion, inspect the motorcycles and mopeds parked along the plate glass window. I check for oil and fuel leaks as well as the overall condition of the motorcycle. I have, on occasion, placed my business card on those vehicles with expired motor vehicle inspection stickers or registration. Some of the motorcycles parked on the sidewalk at 611 Walker are also equipped with illegal aftermarket exhaust mechanisms and I will, in addition to the notification relevant to the expired status of their MVIS or registration, make a note that their exhaust mechanism is illegal.
Mr. Williams told Sergeant Bush during his interview that he, Mr. Williams, had participated in the rally-ride and subsequently parked his motorcycle on the east side of 611 Walker prior to entering the Council Chambers some two blocks west of the 611 Walker building. The motorcycles I observed parked on each side of 611 Walker on November 16, 2010 had been parked there prior to the passage of the motorcyclists involved in the rally at City Hall. I do not remember seeing any motorcyclist park his motorcycle on the sidewalk of 611 Walker subsequent to the passage of the riders involved in the rally-protest at City Hall. I believe that Mr. Williams, concerned regarding the expired MVIS (8/10) on his motorcycle, decided to avoid parking at City Hall and opted to park his motorcycle on the sidewalk of 611 Walker earlier that morning. A rumor had been circulated via the Internet that HPD would be inspecting the motorcycles that were parked at City Hall.
On November 16, 2010, I did, as I have done in the past, place my business card on two or three of the motorcycles parked on the sidewalk of 611 Walker. Those motorcycles with an expired MVIS or registration received a card and those motorcycles that were equipped with an illegal aftermarket exhaust mechanism, in addition to their expired status, received notification that their exhaust mechanism was also illegal. This was done as a COURTESY to the owners/operators of the motorcycles in violation. There was no intent of harassment on my part nor was I aware that I had placed my card on a motorcycle belonging to Mr. Williams. If harassment was the motivation behind leaving the note on the motorcycles, would it not be very foolish to leave a business card with my personal information boldly imprinted on the face of the card?
Unfortunately, any and everything I have done to assist in bringing about compliance relevant to noisy motorcycle violations has been misconstrued as harassment or unprofessionalism on my part. I have gone as far as distributing helpful packets of information to violators of C/O 30-3 in hopes of fostering compliance. I willingly ask for dismissal of citations when defendants appear in court and show me that that they have taken the initiative to correct the problem relevant to their noisy vehicles. I accompany them to the parking lot and inspect their vehicle, I then subsequently ask the prosecutor to dismiss or levy a compliance fee in lieu of a stiff fine. I have told these violators that compliance is my objective and sincerely thank them for their cooperation; I do not wish to take hard earned money from their wallet! Those receiving the information packets from me have brought them to court and complained that I presented them with a copy of relevant laws and ordinances and they misconstrue this as harassment. My attempts to discuss my noise enforcement initiative and foster support for same via the Internet has resulted in IAD complaints and a subsequent reprimand.
Again, the placement of my business card on the motorcycles parked on the sidewalk at 611 Walker is likened to a verbal warning given on a traffic stop. It was done simply as a courtesy with no intent of harassment. And again, I did not know that I had placed a card on Mr. Williams’ motorcycle though his MVIS was expired (8/10) and his Vance and Hines aftermarket exhaust is illegal according to Federal, State and local law.
In specifics, please describe the motorcycle that you allegedly placed your business card on in this incident.
I have placed my business card on a number of motorcycles parked on the sidewalk of 611 Walker within the previous year. Apparently, Mr. Williams had parked his motorcycle on the east side of 611 Walker sometime during the morning of Tuesday, November 16, 2010. I know that I placed my card on a black Harley Davidson parked on the west side of 611 Walker. The Harley had an expired MVIS and was equipped with an illegal Vance and Hines aftermarket exhaust. I also placed my card on a red Yamaha V-Star or Road Star that was parked on the east side of 611 Walker near the plate glass windows. The Yamaha was equipped with illegal Vance and Hines aftermarket exhausts and displayed an expired motor vehicle inspection sticker (8/10).
Did you write a message on the rear of your business card and place the card on a motorcycle on November 16, 2010. What was the content of the written message?
Yes. On November 16, 2010, I did, as I have done in the past, place my business card on two or three of the motorcycles parked on the sidewalk of 611 Walker. Those motorcycles with an expired MVIS or registration received a card and those motorcycles that were equipped with an illegal aftermarket exhaust mechanism, in addition to their expired status, received notification that their exhaust mechanism was also illegal. This was done as a COURTESY to the owners/operators of the motorcycles in violation. There was no intent of harassment on my part nor was I aware that I had placed my card on a motorcycle belonging to Mr. Williams. The placement of my business card on the motorcycles parked on the sidewalk at 611 Walker can be likened to a verbal warning given on a traffic stop. It was done simply as a courtesy with no intent of harassment. If harassment was the motivation behind leaving the note on the motorcycles, would it not be very foolish to leave a business card with my personal information boldly imprinted on the face of the card?
Mr. Williams contends that the card placed on his motorcycle “belonged to Officer Rick Holtsclaw and on the back it said that my pipes were to[o] loud and my inspection was expired, neither were true.”
I sincerely disagree with Mr. Williams. Consider the fact that Mr. Williams’ Vance and Hines are not EPA approved nor do they possess the EPA label as required by section 4909a(2) of the Noise Control Act (NCA). Also consider that I have personally tested similar exhaust mechanisms and found them to emit three-to-four times the noise emissions permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency; therefore, the Vance and Hines exhaust mechanism as installed on Mr. William’s motorcycle is in violation Federal Law, Texas Transportation Code 547.604 and Houston City Ordinance 30-3.
Also, my business card, provided as evidence in this matter, reflects the fact that Mr. Williams’ motor vehicle inspection sticker expired in March/2010 (3/10). Mr. Williams’ MVIS actually expired in August/2010 (8/10) and this fact is confirmed by citation #126635661 which I issued to Mr. Williams during a traffic stop on October 23, 2010. Mr. Williams apparently failed to renew his MVIS after receiving a citation for same and seeing that he was possibly concerned regarding his expired status decided to park his motorcycle at 611 Walker in lieu of joining his riding buddies at City Hall. I also think that Mr. Williams, during the shuffling of my cards on the motorcycles at 611 Walker on November 16, 2010, ultimately retrieved the card that had been placed on the Harley Davidson product parked on the west side of 611 Walker. Mr. Williams, during his interview with Sergeant Bush, admits that the card in question had been removed by another person and replaced at a later time. None the less, Mr. Williams’ motorcycle was both illegally equipped and possessed an expired MVIS on the day in question.
It’s also interesting to note that contrary to the rhetoric of Mr. Williams and the loud motorcycle advocates, if the same motorcycle was parked in similar manner in Denver Colorado or another municipality that has adopted the Label Match-up Program, Mr. Williams’ Vance and Hines exhaust mechanism would be citable even though said bike was parked with the engine off. The Label Match-up program is slowly progressing across the United States as citizens become increasing fed-up with excessively loud motorcycles. Recently, California adopted SB 435, a legislative bill that will require all motorcycles, beginning with the 2013 production year, be equipped with EPA approved exhaust mechanisms that readily display the EPA label signifying that said exhaust does not emit more than 80 db(A).
I would now like to respond to some of the items of interest as discussed between Mr. Williams and Sergeant Bush on the audio CD provided me by Sergeant Bush.
Mr. Williams apparently takes issue with the fact that I have stopped him on traffic on four different occasions. Note that I have provided Sergeant Bush with digital audio relevant to each of these traffic stops. Also, audio/video of the traffic stop that took place on the morning of October 23, 2010 involving Mr. Williams is available and can be acquired from an Officer Paul Lasalle of the HPD Vehicular Crimes Section, 713-376-0877 or 713-247-5911.
On Monday, May 31, 2010, I stopped Mr. Williams on traffic at 0645 hours, 12400 Westheimer Road, for a loud exhaust mechanism and violation of City Ordinance 30-4, “Amplified Sound.” I warned Mr. Williams regarding his loud music, violation C/O 30-4, and failure to wear a DOT approved motorcycle helmet seeing that he failed to provide valid proof of financial responsibility. I issued citation #124566775 for a “loud exhaust” and “Failure to maintain financial responsibility.” Mr. Williams stated on the audio/CD provided by Sergeant Bush that I was issuing citations for “defective exhaust.” This is not true. As noted on the citation issued to Mr. Williams, he was cited for a “loud exhaust.” Audio file #WS500054.WMA on CD and given to Sergeant Bush.
On Sunday, June 27, 2010, I stopped Mr. Williams and Mr. Donald Swain on traffic at 1535 hours, 14600 Westheimer Road, for a loud exhaust mechanism on their motorcycles. Mr. Williams was warned due to the fact he had not yet adjudicated the citation issued on May 31, 2010. Mr. Swain received citation #124942596 for a “loud exhaust;” “No Motorcycle Endorsement;” “Failure to maintain financial responsibility.” Mr. Swain also had two SETCIC warrants for his arrest, but I allowed him sign the citation and released him with a warning regarding the warrants. Audio file #WS500108.WMA on CD and given to Sergeant Bush.
On Friday, July 16, 2010, I stopped Mr. Williams on traffic for a loud exhaust mechanism, Westheimer Road at 2600 S. Kirkwood, 0705 hours. Mr. Williams was warned regarding his illegally loud exhaust mechanism after discussing the situation with Sergeant Michael Mikeska. Sergeant Mikeska had apparently entered into an agreement with Mr. Williams that he would not receive a subsequent citation for a loud exhaust until such time the initial citation had been property adjudicated. Though I did not agree with this condition, I honored the word of my supervisor. Audio file #WS500154WMA on CD and given to Sergeant Bush.
On Saturday, October 23, 2010, I stopped Mr. Williams on traffic at 0655 hours, 13300 Westheimer Road, for violation of Texas Transportation Code 547.305 (b), “Displaying red light to the front of a motor vehicle.” For clarification purposes regarding this traffic stop, I was initially positioned on the northeast corner of State Highway 6 and Westheimer Road watching the traffic signal at that intersection for red light violations. It was early morning and the area was very dark except for ambient light. I observed a motorcycle, stationary in the eastbound lanes of Westheimer at State Highway 6. I noticed that the motorcycle was displaying red light to the front and as the motorcycle proceeded through the intersection I heard the sound of an exceptionally loud exhaust mechanism. Due to my static positioning, I was forced to drive through the Academy parking lot and enter onto Westheimer; therefore, I lost my visual on the motorcycle. I searched eastbound on Westheimer and eventually located the offending cyclists parked at the Chase Bank ATM drive thru lane, 13300 Westheimer Road. I was completely unaware that Mr. Williams was the operator of the motorcycle until I pulled up to the ATM machine. To avoid any other dealings with Mr. Williams, I initially wanted to wave and leave the area but felt that would be interpreted as stalking or harassment; therefore, I exited my patrol vehicle and initiated a conversation with Mr. Williams. I performed a cursory check of the Yamaha motorcycle operated by Mr. Williams and noted that not only was he displaying red light to the front of his motorcycle but his Motor Vehicle Inspection Sticker had expired in August/2010. I initiated citation #126635661 for violation of TTC #547.305 (b), “Red light to the front,” and expired MVIS 8/10. Audio file #WS500412.WMA on CD and given to Sergeant Bush. Also, audio/video of the traffic stop that took place on the morning of October 23, 2010 involving Mr. Williams is available and can be acquired from an Officer Paul Lasalle of the HPD Vehicular Crimes Section, 713-376-0877 or 713-247-5911. For clarification purposes, note that offense location on Citation #126635661 shows to be 14,500 Westheimer, not 13300 Westheimer which is the actual location of the traffic stop. This apparent inconsistency exists due to a jurisdictional problem along the Westheimer corridor. Westheimer Road, between the 13200 and 13700 block, actually belongs to Harris County; therefore, if these block numbers are used on a City of Houston traffic citation an astute defense attorney will file a pretrial motion for dismissal due to lack of jurisdictional authority.
Let it be known that I have observed Mr. Williams, on other occasions, making a nuisance of himself within my beat assignment as he speeds up and down Westheimer swerving in lanes of traffic and making an obvious effort to maximize the loud noise emitted by his exhaust mechanism. I have also performed vehicle license checks at a pornography shop on Highway 6 in search of vehicles with municipal and higher warrants. During one of these self-initiated patrol checks, I’ve run across a white SUV registered to and operated by Mr. Williams. While checking the returns on the entered license plates I observed Mr. Williams drive away in the white SUV. I acknowledged him and I too drove away. No contact was initiated. On these occasions, I have simply looked the other way and allowed Mr. Williams to continue his anti-social conduct in order to prevent any further interaction with the man.
Mr. Williams, on the surface, is rather convincing that his conduct and the conduct of his riding buddies is totally legal and does not harm anyone. Mr. Williams is quick to point out that his organization supports the Lupus Foundation and in doing so suggest that their illegal behavior is somehow justified. Mr. Williams adamantly defends the biker creed of “Loud Pipes Save Lives” when the Hurt Report completely refutes this ridiculous claim. We see this same attitude among those who ride with the Patriot Guard and others who perform various forms of charity rides in our City.
Unfortunately, my leadership, City Council and City Legal are apparently afraid of the motorcycle rights advocates and fear some form of civil action in response to my enforcement initiative. I have advised my chain-of-command in the past that if my vehicular enforcement initiative is creating too many problems, simply advise me to stop and I will cease the issuance of citations for noisy vehicle violations. In response, Lieutenant Ryza advised me that he would never order one of his officers to stop enforcing a valid and applicable law.
After having been assigned to a desk for simply performing my duties, it has become very clear to me that my City leadership does not have the intestinal fortitude to stand with me relevant to those who thumb their noses at the rights of others to enjoy domestic tranquility and a peaceful environment; therefore, I have made the affirmative decision to cease the issuance of citations to the operators of loud motor vehicles until such time I am provided with an objective standard that supports my enforcement efforts. I have been ridiculed, slandered and embarrassed by the news media and print media, yet my leadership fails to counter these spurious allegations. I attempt to defend myself and receive reprimands for my efforts. I have learned a sad and valuable lesson as a result of my concerted effort to do the right thing and diligently serve and protect the citizens in my area of responsibility.
Finally, I would like to comment on Mr. William’s suggestion that I have arrested a motorcyclist for “evading” and for simply asking what he has done wrong. This allegation was made during the interview of Mr. Williams by Sergeant Bush which was recorded on a compact disk.
The motorcyclist in question is one Eric G. Sorrentino, DOB: 2-14-69. Mr. Sorrentino was arrested on October 30, 2010, at 1545 hours, for the offense of “Interference with Public Duties,” HPD Offense Report #153827710X.
I have provided Sergeant Bush with digital audio of this arrest, Audio file #WS500463.WMA. Also, audio/video of the traffic stop that took place on the evening of October 30, 2010, involving Mr. Sorrentino, is available and can be acquired from an Officer Paul Lasalle of the HPD Vehicular Crimes Section, 713-376-0877 or 713-247-5911.
Without further adieu, let me say that since audio of this arrest is available, I will not go into detail regarding my probable cause at this point in time. Suffice to say, Mr. Sorrentino is one of the few, if not the first, traffic violator I have arrested based solely on his unacceptable and uncooperative behavior, this after 30 years of service with the Houston Police Department.
Evidence does exist, and has been forwarded to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, that suggests Mr. Sorrentino conspired with the camera crew of Fox 26 News to initiate a confrontation with me on the day in question. Mr. Sorrentino stepped over the line of reasonableness and his misbehavior unfortunately resulted in criminal charges. Mr. Sorrentino has supposedly posted bond and is awaiting trial.
Mr. Terry Franklin has offered his statement on a sworn affidavit regarding my vehicular noise enforcement initiative. I would like to comment.
Mr. Franklin made an awe inspiring appearance on the Fox 26 segment relevant to my noise enforcement initiative. Mr. Franklin was filmed as he proudly strutted down the isle of Municipal Court #18 after having received a “not guilty” verdict on the “loud engine” citation he had received from me. I just wanted to set the record straight and clarify what took place at Mr. Franklin’s trial that culminated in a “not guilty” verdict.
On the day of Mr. Franklin’s trial, I had approximately 39 noise citations set for adjudication. Needless to say, the antiquated municipal court system was backed-up and my trials were being processed as quickly as possible. Mr. Franklin stepped forward at which time I provided testimony for the State. The Judge, sensing an urgent need to process the cases before her, misspoke and found Mr. Franklin “guilty” before Mr. Franklin had the opportunity to offer testimony on his behalf. Mr. Franklin, in his arrogance, tactfully chastised the Judge for having made this procedural error. In lieu of chancing embarrassment on appeal, the Judge took the path of least resistance and declared Mr. Franklin “not guilty.” Mr. Franklin’s motorcycle was one of the most flagrant noise offenders present that day, but a procedural error exonerated him from the fine he justly deserved.
In conclusion, I would like to say that my enforcement efforts directed toward those who ride and drive loud have been, to say the least, challenging. Texas is one of the last remaining bastions of “anything goes” relevant to very fast and very loud motor vehicles. Law enforcement in Texas has, for the most part, completely neglected noise issues relevant to motor vehicles. This neglect on the part of law enforcement to protect the rights of citizens to enjoy a peaceful environment has led to a sense of “entitlement” among those who ride and drive loud. My enforcement efforts are certainly not popular and are viewed with anger and hostility by some influential individuals within law enforcement as well as those in the motoring public who advocate this illegal and selfish behavior.
“No Smoking” legislation faced similar challenges during its inception, but through perseverance and patient incrementalism advocates of smoking legislation ultimately changed the social atmosphere forever. I believe the day will come when “riding loud” and “driving loud” will be as socially unacceptable as smoking in a public venue is today. I only wish that the leadership in Houston Texas would step up to the plate and lead the way in vehicular noise enforcement thereby setting the example for other municipalities throughout the great State of Texas.
I respectfully request 48 hours notice of the time and location of any future meeting or hearing I am required or entitled to attend, including any interrogation, pursuant to the Texas Local Government Code Superscript 143.1014.
By this letter, I am providing notification of my intent to record all interrogations pursuant to the Texas Local Government Code 143.123(i).
For any and all other purposes, I hereby reserve my Constitutional right to remain silent under the FIFTH and FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS to the UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION and any other rights PRESCRIBED by law. Further, I rely specifically upon the protection afforded me under the doctrines set forth in Garrity vs. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967), and Spevack vs. Klein, 385 U.S. 511 (1956), should this statement be used for any other purpose of whatsoever kind or description.
Finally, although I have fully cooperated and answered all issues presented in this matter to the best of my ability as of the date of this statement, this incident occurred approximately 7 weeks ago. Therefore, I hereby reserve the right to supplement and/or amend this statement should additional facts be brought to my attention through further investigation, subsequent reflection on the matter, because of an honest defect in perception of the event(s), or the common foibles of human memory.
|Rickey D. Holtsclaw, Officer|