Law Enforcement Levels at Rally Equal to Those at Similar Events

Study finds police staffing at the Hollister rally is comparable
to those of similar events in different states
Hollister – A City Council subcommittee charged with looking into public safety staffing for the Hollister Independence Rally reported this week that the police presence at the annual biker event is comparable to similar events in other parts of the country.

Councilman Brad Pike, who sits on the subcommittee with Vice Mayor Robert Scattini, presented the results during Monday’s council meeting.

“It was based on searching out what other communities are doing,” he said afterwards.

Pike and Scattini worked with Hollister Police Chief Jeff Miller and reviewed police staffing levels at Hollister’s rally and others, such as the annual biker events in Sturgis, S.D. and Laughlin, Nev.

Miller said the subcommittee’s findings were no surprise to him, because each year his department performs similar studies of other events, with similar results, while figuring out how many police officers to have at Hollister’s rally.

Scattini, who has said in the past that he thought the police presence at the rally was too great, said he was surprised to learn that police staffing at the Hollister event was comparable to others.

“I thought for sure they were doing overkill with the officers,” he said.

Though public safety staffing levels for Hollister’s rally are in line with other similar events, the cost of providing officers is much higher in California. Public safety costs for this year’s rally were more than $300,000.

“The major thing is the fact that in California it costs more to do business,” Pike said.

Miller said police officer salaries in California are much higher than in other states, such as South Dakota. Also, he said that contracting with other law enforcement agencies to augment Hollister’s police force is expensive.

“When we contract with outside agencies, we’re kind of at their mercy for what they charge us for a contract,” he said.

In recent weeks, the rally, along with the Hollister Independence Rally Committee which organizes the event, has been the subject of considerable criticism. Last month, Police Chief Jeff Miller blasted the rally in a law enforcement report, stating that he cannot guarantee adequate public safety staffing at future events due to the escalating threat of violence between rival motorcycle gangs.

In an effort to figure out how to make the rally work, council members recently split into two subcommittees – one to look into public safety for the event, and another to investigate financial aspects of the rally. The finance subcommittee, which includes council members Doug Emerson and Monica Johnson, has not yet made a report.

The turbulence HIRC is experiencing intensified earlier this month, with the nonprofit organization’s recently-resigned president, Dave Ventura, making a bid to take over the rally with a for-profit organization. Ventura said that the rally, which drew about 120,000 motorcycle enthusiasts this year, has grown too big to be run by a nonprofit with unpaid volunteers.

Council members say they don’t have enough information to support or oppose a for-profit taking over the rally. But many said they are open to the possibility.

The council will hold a workshop Monday to discuss the rally issue. A week later, council members will decide the fate of HIRC’s contract with the city. At that time they could pursue a variety of actions, including renewing or terminating HIRC’s contract or even canceling the rally altogether, according to City Manager Clint Quilter.

Scattini said that he wasn’t sure what effect his subcommittee’s findings about public safety staffing would have on the council’s decision regarding HIRC’s contract. But, he said, it is good to have the information.

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