The video on Facebook and Instagram is very clear. A rider was sitting on his Suzuki GSX-R 1000 this week, waiting at a red light in Hamilton, Ont., chatting on the phone into his helmet, when a police officer runs up to him from behind, pulls him from the bike onto the ground then handcuffs him.
The bike falls over and lies on its side. It’s undamaged, aside from a bent brake lever. The rider is co-operative and polite. Watch the video for yourself if you don’t believe me.
The offence? The bike’s licence plate is tucked up under the rear fender, easily obscured. When the rider asks why he was pulled off the bike, the officer says that “when guys hide the fucking licence plate, they don’t pull over, they take off… That’s why I had to do that, it’s just so you wouldn’t fly.”
Yes, the cop’s totally wrong to do this, but let’s not be coy here. Sport bike riders generally tuck their licence plates under the fender to obscure them. They’re difficult to read if being chased, and they’re difficult to capture on camera. It’s illegal for them not to be clearly visible from the rear, though their clarity will always be subjective.
Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act states: “Every number plate shall be kept free from dirt and obstruction and shall be affixed so that the entire number plate, including the numbers, is plainly visible at all times, and the view of the number plate shall not be obscured or obstructed by spare tires, bumper bars, any part of the vehicle, any attachments to the vehicle or the load carried.”
I reached out to the rider, Kyle Wilde of Hamilton, but he didn’t respond. I wanted to ask him why he tucks his licence plate under the fender in this way. I expected him to say that it’s an aesthetic thing, because the plate just looks ugly hanging off the back of a sleek bike like the Gixxer. He’d be correct, too. After all, when was the last time you saw a front licence plate on a Ferrari?
He argued his point on the video with the officer, saying that “if guys are going to take off, they wouldn’t have a licence plate, to be fair,” but that’s not really the case. It’s true that riders with no plate will almost certainly take off; it’s not true that riders with a plate will not take off.
As expected, commenters on social media were quick to judgement. In one of the politer posts on GTA Motorcycle, Clutt-225 said, “That is not OK at all. Give him a ticket for hidden plate Yes. But this officer used excessive force and caused damage to this guys property over a small ticket. I would have a lawyer in no time. Might even have a bad back after that fall. For the record I usually side with the police but this one took it to far and needs a few days off with out pay. He’s obviously the power tripping arrogant type cop that uses force above and beyond what is needed.”
In one of the politer posts on Facebook, Alina Le-Shark said, “There’s always a reason. Let’s not make it seem like you’re so sweet and innocent in all that.”
It’s obvious from the video that the unnamed cop realizes he went too far, especially when Wilde produces all his correct papers, is infallibly polite, and then cannot start his bike. The officer lifts it up with the help of another person, though doesn’t know enough to hold the brake lever while doing so, and then appears to try to pay for the damage to the lever by pulling cash from his own wallet.
“I’ve got to make this right, so what can we do?” says the cop. “It’s my bad. It’s my fault, right?”
“I don’t know,” says Wilde. “You tell me.”
And that’s where this mess stands. We reached out to Hamilton Police for comment. Their statement was as follows: “The Hamilton Police Service is aware of the video and we are reviewing it accordingly to ensure policies are being adhered to.” As Wilde didn’t get back to me, he’s probably considering his options for legal action.
No charges were laid and Wilde was free to ride away, but come on – this kind of police treatment is totally unacceptable. If the cop was concerned, he should have parked his car in front of the bike to block it, or run out and grabbed the rider by the wrist, or reach for the keys. Knocking him from his motorcycle is appalling.
Of course, you can also argue that nothing would have happened if Wilde just had his licence plate mounted as the law requires for good reason. After all, riding is a privilege, not a right. Just saying.