Dear Chief McClelland,
My name is Rickey D. Holtsclaw, payroll 68560, and I am currently assigned as a patrol officer with the Westside Division. As a 31 year veteran of the Houston Police Department, I have made every effort to serve the citizens of Houston with integrity, professionalism, concern and care. Over the last decade I have noticed an exponential increase in the number and intensity of obnoxiously loud, dangerously loud motor vehicles within my City and throughout the United States. Curious as to why these noisy vehicles are allowed to operate on the streets of Houston, obviously unhindered by law enforcement, I initiated my own personal research relevant to the affects of noise on human physiology and the environment. Second, I researched the role and responsibilities of the Federal Government, State and local governments pertaining to vehicular noise enforcement. Though there is an abundance of medical research on the subject of noise and its detrimental effect on human physiology, a succinct conclusion to my research is adequately expressed in the following letter from Dr. Louis Hagler, a retired physician with a special interest in the study of noise in the environment.
As noted by the World Health Organization, environmental noise is one of the major problems in urban settings, worldwide. This fact has been long recognized by the United States Government as well. Domestic tranquility is one of the six guarantees in the United States Constitution, a guarantee that is echoed in some form or other in every state constitution. In 1972, a Noise Control Act was passed by Congress (Title 42 United States Code Section 4901 et seq.). The legislative intent of the Act reads,
“(a) The Congress finds – –
(1) that inadequately controlled noise presents a growing danger to the health and welfare of the Nation’s population, particularly in urban areas;
(2) that the major sources of noise include transportation vehicles and equipment, machinery, appliances, and other products in commerce; and
(3) that, while primary responsibility for control of noise rests with State and local governments, Federal action is essential to deal with major noise sources in commerce control of which require national uniformity of treatment.
(b) The Congress declares that it is the policy of the United States to promote an environment for all Americans free from noise that jeopardizes their health or welfare. To that end, it is the purpose of this chapter to establish a means for effective coordination of Federal research and activities in noise control, to authorize the establishment of Federal noise emission standards for products distributed in commerce, and to provide information to the public respecting the noise emission and noise reduction characteristics of such products.” (Emphasis added.)
As noted by the World Health Organization, noise produces defense and startle reactions, damages hearing, disturbs communication, disrupts sleep, impairs cardiovascular function, interferes with teaching and learning, reduces productivity, harms relationships, provokes unwanted behaviors, and increases accidents. It is a major source of recurring annoyance, leading to stress which may not be recognized but which degrades the quality of life and adversely affects health. Many of these effects take place outside of conscious awareness. Cardiovascular effects can be detected even while we sleep.
Motor vehicles are major sources of urban noise. Individuals ride around in vehicles whose mufflers no longer muffle; instead they produce a low rumbling roar that is audible at great distances. They ride around in vehicles with sound systems whose power rivals that of major public address systems.
Chief McClelland, I am sure that you are, by now, aware of my enforcement efforts relevant to obnoxiously loud motor vehicles within my area of responsibility. I have, for the previous year-and-a-half, and at great personal and professional cost to myself, made a stand against those who wrongly believe they have the right to violate the law with impunity and violate the rights of the citizens within my area of responsibility by the operation of illegally loud motor vehicles. These motor vehicles have been intentionally altered to emit engine noise ranging from two to four times that permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Thus far, all I have received for my efforts is an exponential growth in the girth of my Internal Affairs/Personnel File as unprincipled men and women, specifically operators of illegally loud motorcycles, file accusations of harassment and misconduct against me via the Internal Affairs Division.
On Wednesday, November 10, 2010, Channel 26 News, in their 9:00 P.M. broadcast, aired a special investigative report regarding my enforcement of Houston City Ordinance 30-3, “Noisy Vehicles Generally.” Though my enforcement efforts are directed at automobiles, trucks and motorcycles, it is the motorcycle community, specifically those who operate illegally loud motorcycles that initiated the Channel 26 investigation. Though the content of the broadcast was inundated with lies and exaggerations, the citizens of Houston were, none-the-less, subjected to its obviously biased message.
On Tuesday, November 16, 2010, a gang of disgruntled motorcyclists rode their illegally loud motorcycles to Houston’s City Hall and addressed Mayor Parker, Chief of Police McClelland and the members of Houston’s City Council. I was, unfortunately, the topic of discussion as allegations of police harassment and improper application of the law were subsequently alleged by a spokesperson representing the advocates of loud motorcycles.
On Friday, November 19, 2010, I began my 31st year with the Houston Police Department. On the morning of November 19, 2010, I was informed by my shift Lieutenant, Lieutenant Paul Ryza, that I was under investigation for harassment and would not be permitted to perform my assigned duties as a patrol officer until said investigation was completed. I found it very disheartening and discouraging that my Chief and my Mayor would take the time to listen to the lies, exaggerations and obfuscation of the unprincipled men and women who filled the Council Chamber that day, yet no one in the upper echelon of my police department has made any effort to sit down with me and listen to the enforcement concerns of a 31 year veteran of the Houston Police Department. I know that my Captain, Captain Mary Lentschke, has been summoned by one or more members of the Command Staff to explain my enforcement efforts relevant to illegally loud motor vehicles. I am aware that there have been numerous inquires by the Command Staff and City Legal regarding my enforcement efforts, but not once has anyone asked input from me. Why?
I believe that I am amply qualified to answer any questions you may have regarding vehicular noise enforcement. I have been riding motorcycles, off and on, for approximately 40 years. During the 1980’s, I was assigned to the Solo-Motorcycle Detail until I transferred to the Helicopter Division in 1989. I have owned 30 motorcycles since age 12, ridden professionally, and toured much of the lower 48 as well as Canada and Alaska. I have accumulated hundreds of thousands of miles on motorcycles in the past 40 years. I am very familiar with motorcycles, the motorcycle industry and motorcyclists in general. I am amply qualified to differentiate between a legal and illegal exhaust mechanism affixed to a motorcycle as well as those aftermarket exhaust systems used to increase the engine noise of automobiles and light trucks.
My legal authority to make the differentiation between the noise emitted by an OEM exhaust and that emitted by an illegal aftermarket exhaust is supported by legal precedent in the Texas Appeals Court case of Aaron C. Aguilar v. Texas (2008). I know that the illegal aftermarket exhaust mechanism on the motorcycles I have cited emit two-to-four or more times the noise emissions allowed by the EPA/80 db(A). A sound meter easily confirms the dangerous levels of noise emissions permitted by aftermarket motorcycle exhaust mechanisms such as Vance and Hines, Sampson, D&D, Porker, Rinehart, Supertrap, Screaming Eagle, Bubs and the list goes on. The sound emitted by these non-EPA non-compliant exhaust mechanisms emits noise levels that easily permeate the protective structures of businesses, residences and places of worship within my beat assignment. The dangerously loud exhaust emissions of an aftermarket exhaust can be heard for over a quarter-of-a-mile in traffic, some up to half-a-mile or more under the right atmospheric conditions.
I know that 70% of new Harley Owners make the purchase of an illegal aftermarket exhaust their very first “performance” upgrade. This is the primary reason a large number of Harley Davidson Motorcycle riders are the recipient of a noise citation. Harley Davidson Inc. has, with embarrassment, published the fact that their clientele often make the purchase of an illegal exhaust system a “kneejerk” reaction to the purchase of new motorcycle. Representatives from Harley Davidson and the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) have published documents on the Web pleading with motorcycle operators around the United States to “pipe down” and ride responsibly. Apparently, very few are getting the message.
Unfortunately, a majority of the citizenry has been exposed to the illegal noise emitted by modified motorcycles for such an extended period of time that they naively believe motorcycles are designed to be loud and obnoxious; therefore, they blindly accept the dangerous decibel levels and unavoidable annoyance. Motorcyclists have operated loud and obnoxious motorcycles, while completely unhindered by law enforcement, for such an extended period of time that there is a sense of “entitlement” in the motorcycle community. Motorcyclists in my area of responsibility cannot believe that a law enforcement officer is actually enforcing a noise ordinance and these riders become visibly angry and verbally vulgar when cited for their selfish and dangerous behavior. As a result of my enforcement efforts, contributors to motorcycle and Corvette Websites publish statements of hate and vulgarity about me and I am commonly referred to as Psycho-Cop Holtsclaw. My enforcement efforts are interpreted as harassment because no other officer in Houston has ever stood up to these purveyors of illegal noise and told them they were out of line
The Internet is inundated with the cries and demands of the citizenry throughout the United States who want law enforcement to intercede on their behalf to stop the exponential increase in the number of noisy vehicles operating in our communities. Simply Google “loud motorcycles” and read the responses of angry citizens as they describe the misery of having to tolerate vehicular noise pollution. Unfortunately, in many jurisdictions, Houston Texas included, law enforcement consistently turns a blind eye and deaf ear to the dangers of illegally loud motor vehicles. “Loud pipes don’t save lives,” loud pipes violate rights, the rights of the citizens within my area of responsibility to enjoy domestic tranquility and a peaceful environment in their homes, places of work and worship. Vehicular noise pollution is not only dangerous, vehicular noise destroys the quality of life for those who are regularly subjected to it.
I am disheartened that the Houston Police Department has failed to support me in my efforts to take a stand against this ever increasing “noise” assault on our citizenry. I am disheartened that a majority of HPD Officers make no effort to stand against the obvious dangers presented by the incredible numbers of illegally loud motor vehicles on our roadways. I find it disconcerting that the whining of those who care nothing for the rights of others has apparently negatively influenced my Mayor and Police Chief relevant to my efforts to protecting the right of the men, women and children in my area of responsibility to enjoy domestic tranquility and a peaceful environment.
Chief McClelland, why not meet with me regarding the subject of noise enforcement? Why not accompany me to an area where these bikers and their illegal machines congregate? Why not place some faith in the integrity and ability of a 31 year police veteran? Is your refusal to consult with me the result of my decision to remain a lowly police officer? I have reluctantly taken the promotional examination once in my career, but that promotion was denied me as a result of Affirmative Action, yet I strive daily to serve my community in the capacity in which I am able to serve. Why not give me the opportunity to demonstrate and explain to you the dangers of vehicular noise pollution?
Attached is a copy of my traffic enforcement efforts during the month of October, 2010. Though motorcycles do out number other vehicles written for noise violations, remember that my area of responsibility has a biker-bar, “The Dam Ice House,” within its boundaries. Also note that the majority of vehicular noise violators operate the large displacement V-twin style motorcycle followed closely by the Gang-Banger styled Acura’s, Honda’s and Mitsubishi automobiles equipped with large, illegal aftermarket slip-on exhaust canisters. Trucks, modified with “Flowmaster” exhaust mechanisms and similar aftermarket exhaust products, are also an ever increasing nuisance in my area of responsibility. The statistical differential in the attached monthly report confirms that there is a lack of substantive evidence suggesting that motorcycles are a “target” relevant to vehicular noise enforcement. No particular group or vehicle is singled out for enforcement. Any vehicle equipped with a loud aftermarket exhaust mechanism or modified OEM exhaust is subject to being stopped and the operator cited. Though other styles of motor vehicles are cited, the loud motorcycle operators have been the only group to coalesce and complain that they are being treated unfairly.
The motorcyclists cry foul and harassment while Fox 26 News spouts lies and discredits one of your own, but instead of defending me and supporting me, I feel my Chief and Mayor have cast me aside and ignored my efforts to make a positive difference in my area of responsibility. Simply stated, my desire is to do the right thing for the citizens of Houston Texas. I am enforcing the law as it is written, City Ordinance 30-3, a law that has been deemed relevant and enforceable by the Legal Department of the City of Houston.
Chief McClelland, if you consider vehicular noise enforcement a non-issue then simply advise me of that fact and will I will focus on others areas of concern within my beat assignment. As my attached work cards will show, I am enforcing the vehicular noise ordinance in my spare time, between calls-for-service. I am simply a patrol officer who noticed a significant problem in his area of responsibility and did his very best to address that problem. This letter is to inform you that there is a dangerous and illegal vehicular noise problem in the City of Houston and I am doing all that one patrol officer can do to combat it.
I need your support, I need support from Houston’s Municipal Court, I need support from supervision and my fellow officers and I need the assistance and cooperation of Houston’s City Legal Department. I have done everything but beg to incorporate the SAE J2825 stationary motorcycle test into my enforcement of City Ordinance 30-3, but City Legal refuses to allow the use of a sound meter. The motorcycle community cries foul regarding perceived subjective enforcement. The inclusion of the SAE J2825 testing procedure would eliminate the issue of subjectivity by simply confirming my initial observation that the exhaust system in question is too loud. The inclusion of the SAE J2825 testing procedure should not require any alteration to the current ordinance. Also, the City of Houston should consider adopting the “label match-up program” which would completely eliminate the subjective argument. Chief McClelland, please let me know what you want me to do and I will, of course, abide by that directive.
Westside Patrol, Shift I