That's a big part of the bond for the Blue Knights. No one knows what an officer is facing like another officer.
Todd Evans, a Wapello County deputy and the chapter president, said the group started about 18 months ago. Thirteen members were part of the original group. Membership “has grown pretty good since then.”
Evans started riding motorcycles five or six years ago. He was drawn to the club by “the love of motorcycle riding and the values of the Blue Knights.”
“They're a family-oriented club,” he continued. “Children are always welcome at any event we do. And there's the charity, too.”
That's a theme Meola was quick to return to: “We're always looking for people looking for donations.”
Wednesday's ride could help with that role, albeit indirectly. Members hope that as people hear about the group the reaction will change from “Who are you?” to “I know you,” when they ask for donations for a raffle or fundraiser.
Meola made sure one other point was made before the group headed out. The vests identify the group and, whether they're wearing their patches or the uniform, they remain law enforcement. If you need help, he said, they'll help.
After 18 months, the club seems happy with having grown to about 22 members scattered through Ottumwa, Fairfield, Centerville and other southeast Iowa cities. It's still early, though. And as the last few bikers trickled in for Wednesday's ride, there was the sense that there was more to do.
Part of that was quite literally the road ahead. Everyone was ready to ride out. But it was also the sense of a group just getting on its feet and reaching for more. Some officers have changed in the past 18 months. One traded his “Iowa VI” rocker for membership in the “Heaven” chapter.
Things are changing, but that's what growth is.