Police presence at rally criticized as unnecessary
By CARLOS HERRERA
The Tombstone Epitaph / Oct. 11, 2013
TOMBSTONE, Ariz. – During the Sept. 20-22 weekend, visitors on Allen Street were greeted with street performances, stagecoach rides, ice cream cones and a noticeable increase of police officers, including members of the Arizona State Gang Task Force.
An outcry from local residents and shop owners about police presence during the Tombstone Ride to Destiny prompted City Marshal Billy Cloud to write a letter of more than 1,700 words to the community that was published in The Tombstone News and Tombstone Gazette. In the letter, Cloud explained why he felt the need for additional law enforcement personnel. One of those reasons was the expected number of bikers at the rally.
"Based upon the estimated 15,000 to 17,000 people anticipated to be in attendance, the numbers of law enforcement personnel were exactly what were needed." Cloud wrote. "It cost the city of Tombstone nothing for all of this extra planning, manpower and technology used during this weekend."
Businesses on Allen Street estimated that less than 2,000 people showed up to the event. Cloud told the city council Tuesday that the Tombstone Ride to Destiny was the only biker rally in Arizona's recent history that had no wrecks, no assaults and no damage to civilian and police vehicles.
Gunfight actor Paul Geller said what he remembers most about that weekend were the police walking up and down Allen Street in tactical gear.
"It was unbelievable," said Geller, who performs at The Wyatt Earp Theatre. "We had special gang task force guys walking around. We had a bunch of cops in unmarked cars and trucks. It seemed like a pack on every corner. We had helicopters flying around."
Street performer Johnny Bones echoed Geller's opinion and thought police in tactical gear walking along Allen Street was extreme.
"It was excessive for the amount of bikers we actually had in town," Bones said. "So it might have been appropriate if the huge numbers had been here. I think the police presence that weekend intimidated a lot of people."
He also pointed out that had the bikers not been in town, "it would have been a dismal weekend for business."
Some local residents felt the extra police was nothing special.
"A lot of people are complaining, but I thought it was nothing to get excited about," said Lillian Turner of the town's visitor center. "Not a single [tourist] came in and complained about the police."
Sue Sinsley, co-owner of Breakfast at Moe's, echoed Turner's statements.
"People blow things out of proportion," she said. "The extra police... it was nothing."