; Date: October 12, 2020
It's close to the 2020 election, and among the craziness is this claim that motorcyclists are supporting Pres. Trump in a huge way. It's likely that more than a few motorcyclists do support Pres. Trump, but the picture here is not about Trump. Motorcyclists often form convoys like this to honor someone, but this particular honor ride was not for Pres. Trump. It was to honor Dallas police officers who'd died in the line of duty in 2016, many months before Pres. Trump's election.
It is incredibly important in this era to double-check everything you see. A posting on Facebook or Twitter might not be what is claimed.
Checking this social media post helped us discover that Pro-Trump people are easily deluded. They want to believe that police officers are hugely supporting Pres. Trump, and then jump on this image believing that it shows a long line of motorcycle cops riding in support of Pres. Trump.
Another issue is that all government employees are prohibited from using their office to promote any political candidate. So, if there were a gathering of motorcycle cops in support of Pres. Trump or any other President, that they should be fired for violation of that prohibition. Fortunately, in this case the officers in question were honoring one of their own.
In any case, let's talk about how one can double-check or verify an image you find on social media.
What one can do is turn to Google Image Search. Image Search is like regular Google Search, but is focused on images. The normal use for Google Image Search is to type in a search phrase and see what images come up. But, you can paste an image into the search box and Image Search will do its best to match the image against ones it has indexed.
What we do is to start with the social media posting. You see it in the image above. There is an image showing the impressive motorcycle parade, and to the right is the discussion. What you do is to right-click on the image, and in the menu which pops up use the Copy Image Address choice. That gives you the URL for the image.
Going to the Image Search (
https://images.google.com) home page gives you this search box. The search phrase would be entered in the text entry box. But, clicking on the camera icon brings up the window shown below. Simply paste the image URL into the box, and click Search by Image.
The first result was this:
You see that Google Image Search identified the image, and identified a possible search string talking about Dallas police officers.
Clicking on that phrase brought up these results:
You'll notice multiple instances of the same picture on Pinterest, all with the same title talking about Fallen Dallas Police Officers.
Further searching turns up a July 14, 2016 article in the International Business Times: Touching photos of the funerals for Dallas police officers killed by sniper.
In the article is a picture showing an honor ride by motorcyclists that looks identical. The article talks about "the funerals for three of the five policemen shot dead by a sniper in Dallas." And specifically: "A funeral procession of police vehicles leads a hearse carrying the body of Dallas Police Department Senior Corporal Lorne B Ahrens".
In fact, zooming in on the image found on Facebook we see:
These are motorcycle cops, riding in honor of a fellow motorcycle cop. In 2016. The article in question even shows that Pres. Obama and former-Pres. G.W. Bush showed up, because of course Pres. Trump hadn't been elected yet.
Yet, this are typical responses to this photo in the pro-Trump group where I found it:
They're thinking this is a) Pro-Trump, and b) occurred in the current time frame.
The reality is, a) this is Pro-Police, and b) happened in mid-2016.
By the way, I've been part of a similar funeral procession. About 30 years ago my uncle, who at the time was a widely respected well-loved Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) who'd worked in the Kansas City area died unexpectedly. As a nephew, I was honored to ride in one of the lead cars. Following the lead cars was a procession of ambulances and fire engines that looked like it stretched for a mile.
Hence, it is common that when a police officer or other first responder dies, that there is a huge procession like this.
Earlier I suggested that police officers, like any other government employee, are prohibited from showing support for a politician or political cause.
State Ethics Commission Advisory 11-1: Public Employee Political Activity, is an advisory from the Govt. of Massachussets saying:
The conflict of interest law generally restricts public employees from using public resources in connection with campaign or political activity, except under limited circumstances. The Commission's advisory on public employee political activity can assist public employees in understanding the conflict of interest law restrictions. Public employees are encouraged to contact the State Ethics Commission at 617-371-9500 for advice on specific situations.
What is the policy for participating in political campaigns? is a directive from the US Deptartment of Defense reading in part:
The Department of Defense (DOD) encourages all military and civilian personnel and their eligible family members to register and vote. Certain provisions on campaign participation, however, apply to federal employees and members of the armed forces.
As a matter of long-standing policy, military service members and federal employees acting in their official capacity may not engage in activities that associate the DOD with any partisan political campaign or elections, candidate, cause or issue. The limitations of participation can be found in DOD Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces, and the Hatch Act.
Under DOD Directive 1344.10, members of the armed forces who are on active duty are permitted to express their personal opinions on political candidates, make a monetary contribution to a campaign, sign a petition to place a candidate's name on the ballot, and attend a political event as a spectator. Members on active duty may not participate in partisan activities such as soliciting or engaging in partisan fundraiser activities, serving as the sponsor of a partisan club, or speaking before a partisan gathering. In addition, all military members, including National Guard and Reserve forces, are prohibited from wearing military uniforms at political campaign events.
On-Duty Texas Police Officers Wore Pro-Trump Hats. That’s A Problem. is a news article from October 2016 discussing a group of San Antonio Texas police officers who wore Make America Great Again hats. And, they posed for photo's with then-candidate Donald Trump. The article included these tweets:
And, it has this to say:
San Antonio city employees are prohibited from participating in political activity while on the job. Tess House, a civil rights lawyer in San Antonio, said the display was inappropriate. “They were acting within the scope of their employment. We’re talking about taxpayer money. They are on duty and abusing their position in order to take a stance and support a political candidate,” House told The Huffington Post.
San Antonio Police Chief McManus is quoted saying:
“As Chief of Police, I understand the concerns over this incident. Beyond violating Departmental and City policy, the officers used poor judgment,” McManus said. “San Antonio Police Officers have always and will always remain dedicated to professionally serving all citizens. We will continue to work tirelessly to remain a national model for police agencies across the country.”