It Will Get Tough: Cops & Bikers
By Mike Cupp
I met Ralph “Teach” Elrod at Las Vegas Bikefest late last year. He was manning a booth to promote his book and we chatted for a few minutes about the book and his experience. He mentioned that my friend, Keith Ball (Bikernet.com & 5 Ball Leathers) wrote the foreword introduction to the book, and my curiosity was piqued. I knew I had to read this book.
Teach was one of the original outlaw bikers, living a life that most non-riders wouldn’t understand. A life devoted to building & riding choppers, hard drugs, partying, sex and more often than not, running from the law. He writes about his experience with the Barons MC, their history, rules and code of conduct.
The centerpiece of the story is the Slow Pitcher Tavern Riots in 1974. For those that aren’t familiar with the incident, the Slow Pitcher Tavern was a regular bar in Portland, OR. Like many bars, they had a “no colors” policy, but when they changed ownership, the president of the Brothers Speed MC, Luke Metcalfe, met with the owner and the two shared a pitcher of beer and talked about the policy. The new owner realized that Luke was a regular guy and lifted the “no colors” policy.
Roughly a month after the policy change, police decided to raid the establishment on a busy Wednesday night before Thanksgiving the next day. Scuffles between police and bikers began breaking out in the establishment and within minutes the place was swarming with cops swinging batons and big black flashlights. The bikers could hold their own in an even match, but the cops eventually overwhelmed the bikers and proceeded to beat many of them mercilessly. You’ll have pick up the book to read about the laughable charges and whether they stuck or not.
The book also discusses an incident with the Outsiders MC in 1979. In this incident, the police fabricated evidence to unlawfully raid the Outsiders clubhouse. The police raided the clubhouse wearing plain clothes and wore masks covering their faces. Thinking they were under attack from another club, the Outsiders fought back and one of the police officers was shot and killed. During the investigation, the police admitted to planting evidence and fabricating witnesses to justify the raid. It turned into a public relations nightmare for the police department, but the poor biker who shot the cop was targeted by police departments across the Northwest for years after the event.
Teach talks frankly about the repercussions faced by his family. In one example, his daughter was a victim of a horrific crime and during the trial, the district attorney used his position of authority to take advantage of the underage girl and abuse her sexually. The D.A. went on to become a prominent judge, proving that not all outlaws wear leather and ride motorcycles. The biggest criminals wear suits and run for office.
Many of the incidents in the book happened decades ago, but the motorcycle community is still at odds with many police departments across the country. The Waco Texas Shootout in 2015 is the latest incident to make national headlines, and it’s eerily similar to the Slow Pitcher Tavern incident and the Outsiders MC raid discussed in the book. We also have the Mongols Patch trial working its way through the court system, while anti-profiling laws are being discussed in congress. We still believe that the vast majority of police officers (and bikers) are good, law-abiding citizens, but there will always be a few that stain the reputation of the others.
Bottom line, if you’re interested in the history of motorcycle clubs, the outlaw biker lifestyle or just want to read a riveting tale of one man’s life, then this is the book for you. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the stories and details that are shared in the book.