Club claims surveillance amounts to harassment; RCMP say they have reasons for keeping an eye on bikers’ activities

Club claims surveillance amounts to harassment; RCMP say they have reasons for keeping an eye on bikers’ activities

No easy ride between Veterans Motorcycle Club and RCMP

Club claims surveillance amounts to harassment; RCMP say they have reasons for keeping an eye on bikers’ activities

A representative of The Veterans Motorcycle Club says they  are being unfairly targeted, to the point of harassment, by the RCMP; but the RCMP say they are concerned the club may have connections with the British Columbia chapter of the Hells Angels and may become a recruiting agent for bike gangs.

The most recent encounter between the Veterans and the RCMP was a May 30 ‘poker run’ in the Ladysmith area, which drew dozens of bikers. The Veterans characterize it as a fun event and community fund-raiser; the RCMP say it drew known members of the Hells Angels and that the bikers engaged in ‘blatant’ disregard for the rules of the road.

An RCMP brief printed in the June 2 edition of the Chronicle raised the ire of Bill McCasky, member and former president of the Veteran’s Motorcycle Club. He said the report misrepresented what happened that day, and complained that the RCMP are wasting resources, harassing his club’s members with intensive surveillance of events like the poker run.

The RCMP, though, are not apologetic. The Chronicle contacted Cpl. Paul McIntosh of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CSFEU), which monitors gang activity in BC, to ask why police are so interested in the Veterans.

McIntosh made it clear during the interview that the RCMP do not have any evidence of criminal behaviour on the part of the Veterans; what concerns the police are what they see as indications the Veterans could be associated with the Hells Angels – and that makes them a group the RCMP wants to keep an eye on.

“In our eyes we’re seeing them as a potential recruiting ground for the Hells Angels,” McIntosh said. “It’s their association to the Hells Angels that we’re watching.”

Some of the RCMP evidence consists of the code contained in the trademark ‘patches’ motorcycle gangs like the Hells Angels wear. To the ordinary observer the patch is simply a brand, like what you’d find on a sports jersey.

Not so. The ‘three piece patch’ identifies the wearer’s club on the top; it’s logo in the centre; and its territory in the ‘rocker’ on the bottom.

The rocker stakes out the turf of the member’s chapter. The Hells Angels own B.C. and take their proclamation very seriously. Nobody else can wear a three piece patch, especially one that stakes a territorial claim, without the ‘sanction’ of the Hells Angels, McIntosh said.

“They ask for sanctioning to wear that three-piece patch.” And if another gang or club wore a competing patch without sanction, the Hells Angels would react. “If it goes on long enough it will result in violence,” McIntosh explained.

He said the patch of the Veterans Motorcycle Club was sanctioned by the Hells Angels in Kelowna in 2009.

Does that make the Veterans an ‘outlaw’ motorcycle gang? “It doesn’t automatically make them an outlaw club, not by any means,” McIntosh said. But the RCMP believes there are conclusions that can be drawn from the sanction. “The Hells Angels don’t do anything for free,” he said.

So why would a motorcycle club that wants to be on the up and up associate – even to the extent of getting sanctioned to wear a patch – with a club known to be heavily involved in criminal activity?

McCasky confirmed the ‘powers that be’ did initially tell the Veterans to remove the three-piece patch from the back of their jackets when the club was formed in Calgary. The Veterans went for ‘about a year’ with a one-piece patch, but McCasky said on further consideration, and out of respect for the military background of the Veterans, the Hells Angels changed their mind, and allowed the vets to use a three piece patch with ‘Canada’ emblazoned in what is known as the ‘rocker,’ or the bottom band.

“Once they understood we’re not territorial, we’re not into – well, whatever you want to call it, you know – we’re just an entity unto ourselves, they said, because of the respect they have for the armed forces, and what these people have done, they said ‘Yeah, go ahead.’ That’s how we ended up back with the three-piece patch.

“In the biker world the biggest word you will hear all the time is ‘respect’, and that’s it, that’s all it was. It’s not like we made any deals or they made any deals or anything.”

The Hells Angels “realized were are not territorial,” McCasky said. “That’s why we have ‘Canada’ (on our rocker) and we don’t say ‘British Columbia’ we don’t say ‘Alberta’ on our backs, cause that’s the territorial thing.”

McIntosh asks why a club that wants to cultivate trust within its community would allow members of motorcycle gangs to attend an event like the May 30 poker run. Police identified one person who is a member of the Hells Angels in the run, another who is a ‘prospect,’ a third who tried but didn’t make it into the Hells Angels, and a fourth, who belongs to what the RCMP consider a ‘puppet club’ of the Hells Angels.

“In our eyes we’re seeing them (the Veterans) as a potential recruiting ground for the Hells Angels,” McIntosh said. “It’s their association to the Hells Angels that we’re watching.”

McCasky confirmed there were two veterans (as in ex-services personnel) in attendance at the poker run, who were also affiliated with the Hells Angels. He also confirmed they were former members of the Veterans Motorcycle Club. But he said it’s a mistake to jump to conclusions, just because they were allowed to participate in the ride.

“They were both past serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and they know who we are, they’re friends,” he said. “We’ve known these people before they were Hells Angels.” He denied casual contact like that indicates anything about the Veterans Motorcycle Club’s affiliation. “That has nothing to do with moving up through our club and going on like a puppet club or whatever you want to call it,” he said. “That has nothing to do with it.”

“We are not, and you can write this down in capital letters, we are not affiliated with any other motorcycle club in Canada,” McCasky said.

He wants to know how the RCMP can afford to commit the kind of resources they do to monitoring an event like the Ladysmith poker run, and why they aren’t committing the same kind of resources – helicopter surveillance, police motorcycles, and personnel brought in from other areas of the province – to events elsewhere that are organized by known chapters of the Hells Angels. “You have to understand, we’ve never been charged and convicted of anything,” McCasky said. “They keep pushing; it’s like if they say it long enough, it will become their truth, but it’s not true.

McIntosh confirms there have been no charges or convictions of Veteran’s members, but noted the RCMP aren’t the only agency interested in the doings of the club. “We have nothing criminal on the Veterans. There hasn’t been an investigation,” he said. But he noted military police were also present at the poker run because some of the Veterans members “have pretty high security clearance.”

“They watch other organizations,” McCasky said. “The military is always concerned about the security thing, right, like someone’s going to give a secret away, that kind of thing.” He said members of the Veterans who have been interviewed by Military Police have always walked away in the clear. “The guys just always walk through the interviews because they stand on their record,” he said. “They’re not going to jeopardize their pensions, their careers, for something silly.”

McCasky said he would ‘stand on his record’ and the RCMP have got it wrong if they think a three-piece patch changes any of that. “I’ve never been arrested, or anything like that.”