NORTH BRANCH, Minn. — A senior tradition got detoured in North Branch this morning when police stopped an illegal parade of ATVs and off-road vehicles.
North Branch Police posted their version of events on the department's Facebook page after receiving a flurry of calls, comments and negative posts about their decision to stop the student convoy.
It all began when an officer was dispatched to Athens Trail Thursday morning on reports of an ATV driving carelessly. North Branch Police say that squad met a group of approximately 30 side by sides, ATVs and dirt bikes being driven in the lanes of the road, on the shoulder, and that some of the ATVs and dirt bikes were in the ditch jumping driveways.
Deciding the teen drivers were violating state regulations for off-road vehicles, officers turned around to stop the parade. Police say they saw several riders operating in the wrong lane, crossing the center no-passing line and violating other laws.
Once pulled over, police say in the Facebook post that one rider attempted to flee and was detained by a deputy from Chisago County. That person and one other rider were the only two teens cited.
Trailers were called in and all of the ATVs were removed from the scene. A group of tractors and other vehicles following the group that were operating legally were allowed to continue on to North Branch High School.
A number of people posting comments on the North Branch Police Facebook page accused the department of over-reacting and using heavy-handed tactics. "Boooooo!," wrote one. "It’s a tradition that the police know happens EVERY SINGLE YEAR for 10+ years now. Great way for the kids this year to remember their last day of school."
Police obviously disagree, writing "If this had actually been done safely there would not have been cause for the stop. The lead officer in the incident has been with the department since 2001 and is the first time he felt that intervention was warranted."
Other posts thanked North Branch Police for handling the situation in a timely and decisive manner. "Thanks for doing YOUR job and YOUR job should NEVER be questioned," one woman opined. "If you're not following the rules there are consequences...everybody is taught this at a very young age. I get the fun of it but you can still have fun with rules in place."