Shooting, Waco affect police planning for rally

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Police keep an eye on the motorcycle rally from the Briggs Building in 2007.

Police Chief David Westrick has a simple goal heading into the Hollister Freedom Rally, the first major motorcycle event since the deadly Waco, Texas shootings in May involving rival biker clubs.
“Really, my goal for everybody is to go home after the event and have a great time,” Westrick told the Free Lance. “If we want to have a sustainable event, it’s got to be safe every time.”
Westrick spoke about this year’s broadly encompassing approach to security—he oversees all public safety for the event—as tens of thousands of bikers will pack into the downtown area for three days starting Friday for the Hollister Freedom Rally.
It’s the first big motorcycle event since the Waco incident and the first Hollister rally since last year’s three-day event involving violence. On the final day of last year’s rally, there was a non-fatal shooting at the Chevron gas station at the Highway 25 bypass intersection of San Felipe Road.
“The shooting from last year and the incident from Waco affect my planning,” Westrick said. “Yes, of course. There have also been a couple incidents between then at large public gatherings.”
He went on: “I don’t look at this so much as a biker event. I look at it as a large public gathering with a lot of music, bikes and food.”
Westrick said there is a “whole menu of things that could negatively impact public safety.”
“It gives you, really, a wider array of things to plan for,” he said.
Although the chief can’t get too specific on security plans, he did mention how the city will once again bring in experts on public gatherings, employ multiple communication centers, have someone always viewing the cameras set up throughout downtown, and provide a similar officer presence on the streets as last year.
“That kind of preparation is important for a successful event,” said Westrick, who emphasized there are many planning meetings held throughout the year.
As for other areas of public safety, Westrick pointed to a mobile field hospital and emergency medical technicians set to use bicycles for a second straight year to get around the event area. He pointed out how those EMTs will have defibrillators on them this coming weekend, too.
“We have a lot of people,” said Westrick.
The California Highway Patrol will beef up its patrols for the rally weekend as well, said Officer Herb Kellogg with the Hollister-Gilroy office.
Due to the mass of bikers coming to town, the CHP obtained grants to add officers for the three days—even more than a routine July 4 weekend, Kellogg said.
“There will be many more officers on the road for this three-day weekend to ensure safety of the public and to keep violations down and so forth,” he said.
Kellogg said the Waco incident played into the use of additional officers.
“Absolutely,” he said. “If there’s a situation that may warrant it, that’s why there will be many officers so we can back each other up and be able to keep ourselves safe as well as the motoring public.”

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