Opinion: Hamilton Cop’s Excessive Force

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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.

11 COMMENTS

  1. How did this officer even get hired on the force with the so called ridged screening , They must have softened the training to have given this guy a badge , This Cops attitude and approach is off the wall , Even offering to pay for the damage ? Only when he noticed he had a camera on him ??? This Cop wants to bribe the incident away !

    I really hope the rider takes legal action , Hard to believe the Police chiefs in Hamilton are not doing anything given the world has seen it all on camera

  2. I got to a certain point where I learned I wanted as little to do with the police as possible. When I purchased my GSXR750… I tossed the “Fender Eliminator” and the tiny rear signals and put it all back to stock. The aftermarket exhaust’s box was included wherein I found a baffle to quite the dam thing down, it was promptly installed.

    I am certain I am the only GSXR owner in the North America to have ever done the above. Who wants to make the meme?

    Guess what? Never hassled by the police either, never pulled over and yes I have insurance! Go Figure?!

  3. Hamilton Police Department Offending Officer: EL HASSEN Badge Number 268

    He would have had to kept me cuffed if he knocked me off my bike. I’da f***ed him up.

  4. I see a lot of cars on the road with licence plates worn to near invisibility, or covered in dirt and completely unreadable.

  5. I’m really impressed with how calm Wilde was – great job! Aside from the physical behaviour of the cop, I hope he is also reprimanded for his unprofessional tone. Swearing and talking the way you would to your buddy is not at all appropriate here. I have a feeling this cop will be working the files for awhile!

  6. The cop was completely in the wrong, no debate. Harley-Davidson is the go to motorcycle for biker gangs and the same cop would have never have tried the same move, additionally many Harley-Davidson rider also mount plates in a fashion which obscures view.

    Should have a protest in Hamilton to burn and loot the city into a shell of its former self, but that’s already been done.

  7. I have no idea how he kept his cool, I likely would have snapped as I feel rage just looking at the video (and maybe I have issues – but not as much as that cop). If it wasn’t for the helmet cam I bet the cop would have denied everything and not been so “my bad” (I also hate that expression). And cuffing the guy – really?? Anything less than an unpaid suspension from duty would be a farce, and the rider should get full payment for any scuff/repair. Most sport bikes I’ve seen have a modified plate location – who doesn’t like a tidy tail 😉 – so to assume they’d all run is BS. Ticket the guy if you don’t like his plate location, that’s pretty simple.

  8. Add this to the list of reasons to sell the sport bike and get a super moto.

    I hope this guy sends the Police Department a bill for the brake lever, scratched fairings, mirror, tail section/pipe, and how ever much it costs to check if his frame is bent. (plus anything else damaged.)

    That was ridiculously un-acceptable. If the officer had enough time to run up and tackle him, he had more than enough time to look at the numbers on his plate, then it wouldn’t matter if the rider took off, the officer would know where he lived anyway.

    I thought you had to commit a crime before the police could tackle and cuff you.

  9. The whole buried licence plate deal p*sses me off. If you’re cop, write the ticket, check the rider’s documentation and walk away.
    There are a lot of squids riding ‘dirty’, a kid show up at my friend’s shop a couple of weeks ago with a rat sport bike that had tossed the chain. They replaced the chain and sprockets (fragged) but he didn’t want to spend the extra 12 bucks to replace the oil filter that had also been damaged. They wrote a BIG disclaimer on the work order and made him sign it.
    As he was leaving, I walked out to the bike and suggested that he might want do a better job of counterfeiting his plate, in Ontario they don’t have the slogan ‘Yours to Discover’ that the cars do.
    He’d had someone silk screen on to a metal blacking, complete with a badly obscured expiry date sticker.
    He didn’t take kindly to my suggestion.
    Re: the video, no question the cop was in the wrong but I’m sure he’s seen his fair share of this kind of aforementioned nonsense.

  10. People of certain races get hassled by the police and sport bike riders that don’t tick all the boxes get unwanted attention. It might not be right but it’s real. That being said any sport bike riders I’ve seen with the plate tucked under the fender are the same ones doing sketchy shit with an FU attitude.

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