Fayetteville, Arkansas Police Chiefs: Failure to Enforce Anti-Noise Laws
January 18, 2016
Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet
Chapel Hill: Richard Watson and Greg Tabor, the past and current police chiefs of Fayetteville, Arkansas, have won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet for their role in promoting “Bikes, Blues, and BBQ,” a massive annual celebration of motorcycle noise. Held every September, the noisemaking event regularly attracts 400,000 motorcyclists blasting their loud pipes and revving their engine, creating a noise nightmare for the Fayetteville community.
Rick Holtsclaw is a retired, 31-year veteran of the Houston police department who placed an emphasis on noise enforcement. Holtsclaw states that “every once in a while I read a comment or editorial that takes me back in time when I first donned that shiny badge and shiny revolver. I was so proud! I remember the oath I took where I swore to keep my life unsullied by the world and my promise to serve the citizenry in accordance with local and state law and to respect the constitutional rights of every citizen.”
Recently, Holtsclaw came across two articles which reflected poorly on the law enforcement community. These articles centered on two Fayetteville, Arkansas police chiefs.
The first article was an historical overview of the infamous Fayetteville, Arkansas “Bikes-Blues-BBQ Motorcycle Rally” that takes place in the early fall of each year. The article, “Bike Rally Has Long History,” by Sidney Tursky, states: “It was the mid-1990s, and Fayetteville Chief of Police Richard Watson had just acquired his first Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Watson rode around the country attending rallies, and eventually decided that Fayetteville should have its own rally, said Joe Giles, executive director of Bikes, Blues & BBQ.”
While former Chief Richard Watson humbly denies the title “founder of the BBB Rally,” he played a significant role in its creation. Holtsclaw wonders if Chief Watson approves of the excessive, illegal motorcycle noise that is commonplace in biker rallies.
Also, Holtsclaw discovered a letter addressing the participants of that rally from Greg Tabor, the current chief of the Fayetteville Police Department. Chief Tabor states: “The biggest complaint the Police Department receives during the rally is loud pipes, especially in the evening and late night hours in residential neighborhoods. The Bikes, Blues, BBQ Motorcycle Rally is an important part of our local economy and we want everyone, residents and visitors alike, to have a safe and enjoyable time.”
To the casual observer, Chief Tabor’s letter to rally participants, though stern, suggests that the operation of a LOUD motorcycle on the roadways of Arkansas is permissible and somehow justified by the MONEY associated with the irresponsible behavior.
Excessive noise is prohibited by both Fayetteville and Arkansas law. Parts (B) and (E) of Fayetteville’s motor vehicle noise ordinance are objective, easy to enforce, and do not require noise measurements. Arkansas’ state law prohibits the use of any muffler on a motor vehicle that does not conform to the specifications of the “factory-installed” muffler—a very quiet muffler, indeed! The state law is objective and enforceable, and does not require noise measurements. There is no excuse for local and state law enforcement officials to not enforce the noise laws.
What Holtsclaw finds rather ironic about Chief Tabor’s admonition for the participants of the BBB rally to behave themselves (in conjunction with his acknowledgment that “the biggest complaint the Police Department receives during the rally is loud pipes”) is the fact that Chief Tabor has done absolutely NOTHING about the thousands of illegally equipped, illegally LOUD motorcycles that are present at each year’s rally.
Holtsclaw recently submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Fayetteville Police Department requesting the number of vehicular noise citations written from April 1, 2015 to October 1, 2015 (the months that are inclusive of the Steel Horse Motorcycle rally in Fort Smith, the Hot Springs motorcycle rally, and the Bikes-Blues-BBQ motorcycle rally).
Holtsclaw’s request included vehicular noise citations written via the state law and/or any relevant ordinances. And how many citations for vehicular noise were issued by the Fayetteville Police Department over that six-month period? NONE! NOT ONE CITATION!!!
Holtsclaw states that “Chief Tabor has obviously compromised his integrity and the integrity of the Fayetteville Police Department. The Bible states that ‘the love of money is the root of all evil.’”
Larry Deal, a Noise Free America member, commented that “the city of Fayetteville and its Advertising and Promotion Commission sponsors the Bikes Blues and BBQ motorcycle rally. They encourage tens of thousands of motorcycles to converge on the city. With so many motorcycles gathering in one place, and given the penchant for many motorcycle owners to illegally modify their motorcycles, it is inevitable that there will be many excessively loud motorcycles. City leaders should not be encouraging excessive noise.”
Deal noted that “large motorcycle rallies are often very nasty, noisy affairs. The organizers of the Bikes Blues and BBQ motorcycle rally claim that the rally is ‘family-friendly’ and that nudity, lewdness, offensive clothing and gang activity so common in other motorcycle rallies is banned at this rally.’”
However, Deal observed, “the event features hordes of thunderous motorcycles with excessive noise emissions–the result of their owners illegally modifying their motorcycle’s exhaust system in violation of federal and state laws. Usually, noise ordinances are not enforced at such events—but they should be.”
According to Deal, “thousands of unlawfully loud motorcycles gathering in Fayetteville is not ‘family friendly.’ The Fayetteville Bikes Blues and BBQ motorcycle rally is a loud pipe nightmare for the citizens of Fayetteville and the entire surrounding area. It is nothing to be proud of.”
Rick Holtsclaw concluded that “because of the Bikes, Blues, and BBB rally, every municipality near Fayetteville suffers from dangerous, intrusive, and illegal decibel levels generated by tens of thousands of unregulated motorcycles operating in stark violation of Arkansas’ state muffler law.”
Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet is a national citizens’ organization opposed to noise pollution. Past “winners” of the Noisy Dozen award include the Hot Springs Motorcycle Weekend, the Massachusetts Motorcycle Association and the Sturgis motorcycle noise festival.