You have to hand it to the police on the front-line of fighting organised crime in this State.
Some times, no, most of the time, it must feel like they’re doing a line dance — one step forward, two steps back.
Required to investigate, arrest, disrupt, restrict and dismantle those who use the collective resources of an organised group to pursue criminal activity, the officers are only as powerful as the laws entrusted to them.
It’s not like in the movies where — in the words of Sean Connery’s cop character in The Untouchables — they put one of yours in hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue.
In recent months, the Barnett Government has announced a suite of new legal weapons for police to use in their battle against the bikies.
Many hours have been spent refining and debating the Criminal Organisations Control Bill to the point where it is close to being passed and enshrined.
Once the law is at the disposal of WA’s law enforcement agencies, a group could be declared a criminal organisation and members of that group could then be restricted from associating with one another.
They wouldn’t be allowed to communicate in any way, including phone calls, fax, mail or email inside or outside of Australia. If used to maximum effect, the control orders would seriously skewer the rights of association so cherished by the bikie brotherhoods and any other groups deemed to be criminal enterprises.
“At this point it is opportune to assure the Parliament and the people of Western Australia that this legislation is aimed at organisations that harbour and encourage criminal activities,” then attorney-general Christian Porter said last November.
“It is not aimed at people who enjoy riding motorcycles as a group, organisations who show their skills with firearms at competitive meetings, or organisations and clubs who like to distinguish themselves by wearing badges and other regalia.”
But with the legislation now within a whisker of being passed into law, one of its targets — the Comanchero Motorcycle Club — decided to throw a party to celebrate the establishment of their WA chapter and clubhouse.
The ninth outlaw motorcycle club to call WA home was officially opened for business on Saturday.
One step forward, two steps back.
About 55 patched members flew in from Victoria and NSW to acknowledge the occasion with their dozen or so Perth brothers at the club’s headquarters in Northbridge. They occupy a separate section of a fitness centre and fight club.
During the day up to 30 Comancheros climbed aboard Harley Davidsons for a ride to Fremantle and back.
They were tailed by police and the festivities at the clubhouse were monitored late into the night.
“The police are making a big issue out of nothing at all,” one figure linked to the Comancheros said.
“There were no dramas at all. Everyone had a good time. There are more problems with out-of-control parties and muggings.”
He said if the so-called anti-association laws were good enough to be used against bikies, they should be used against politicians who did the wrong thing.
“If people aren’t up to anything, why should they be stopped from meeting,” the man said.
“We could start a footy team and then be together and talking about things on the footy field.”
But the Comancheros are anything but a footy team and their history has been marred with extreme violence.
A television series recently brought a version of the club’s past into living rooms, but anyone around in 1984 knows it as the Milperra massacre, where six bikies and a teenaged girl were gunned down in a carpark shoot-out between the Comancheros and Bandidos.
Last year, Comanchero national president Mahmoud “Mick” Hawi was jailed for murdering a Hells Angel associate during a bloody brawl at Sydney airport.
It’s understood the gang’s growth in WA has had its setbacks, including the arrest of one man on drugs charges just before his being patched and taking over as the Perth chapter’s leader.
His scenario is a prime example of how police might use the new control orders legislation.
First, the Comancheros would need to be a declared organisation and then the Police Commissioner could apply to have the man deemed a controlled person and prevented from having any form of association or communication with others in the Comancheros.
If he breached the order, he could then be jailed.
“We look forward to any laws or powers that make the fight against organised crime easier for us,” Insp. Dario Bolzonella said yesterday.
“The flavour of the law is to try to stop recruitment into these gangs and to stop them getting stronger and more powerful.”
The Comanchero associate Inside State spoke to said the new laws were motivating club members to continue their lifestyles and stick together.
“Why should they give it up,” he said. “Would you want to be dictated to?”
One step forward, two steps back.