RANKS AND STRUCTURE
Patch-wearing gangs have a formal hierarchy with a structure that is similar in most gangs. The positions of president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and sergeant at arms are known as “officers”.
A new officer is elected whenever an existing office-holder is unable to carry out his job properly, usually due to imprisonment or sickness (motorcycle crashes etc).
Most gangs hold regular meetings (which they call “church”) that all patchmembers must attend to discuss matters relating to the club. The majority of gangs are run as a democracy with every patchmember having one vote. Many gangs hold annual elections to select their officers while others vote on a specific position when it becomes vacant or when another member mounts a challenge.
Each chapter has its own set of officers. A “chapter” is a group of gang members under the control of one president. Some gangs, such as the Black Power or Mongrel Mob, have numerous chapters throughout the country (often with more than one chapter in major cities) while others have only one or two nationally.
The prez is the leader of the chapter. He is the clubs figurehead and is usually the spokesman when dealing with the police or the media. The prez is the chairman at club meetings and represents the chapter at national meetings.
The vice president is second in charge and fills in when the president is away. The vice prez is often the heir apparent to the clubs leadership although this isn’t always the case. It’s his job to make sure that matters passed at club meetings are carried out satisfactorily.
The secretary is responsible for the clubs paperwork. He keeps minutes of meetings and records dates of significant events, such as anniversary dates (when prospects gain their patch). He corresponds with other gangs and it’s his job to keep members informed of upcoming events. The secretary is usually responsible for keeping records of club assets although the treasurer will do this in some gangs.
The treasurer is the chapters’ money-man and he’s in charge of collecting club fees, run funds etc and paying the bills. The treasurer is responsible for collecting any debts owed to the gang and usually gets the job of checking out business opportunities prior to any decisions being made. The treasurer is usually the person who handles the proceeds of a gangs illegal activity.
The positions of secretary and treasurer are often combined.
SERGEANT AT ARMS
The sergeant at arms is basically the gangs “policeman” although most would not like to be referred to in this way! He enforces club procedures and maintains order at club meetings. The sergeant is in charge of security at gang events and he is responsible for “back ups” (attacks on rivals). The sergeant looks after the gangs’ firearms and other weapons.
The sergeant at arms is sometimes known as the “master of arms”, (although “sergeant at arms” has become much more common). In some gangs, the sergeant wears a military style sergeant’s badge.
Most motorcycle gangs have a position known as Road Captain. He is in charge of logistics during a club run. He plans the route and organises refuelling stops etc. The Road Captain rides at the front and leads the pack with the president. The position of Road Captain is usually a “non executive” position.
Patchmembers are members of the club who have earned the right to wear the gangs colours, after a suitable period spent “prospecting”. They take part in the running of the club and attend the gangs weekly meeting (“church”). They are commonly referred to as “members” or, in some clubs, “patches”.
A few motorcycle gangs have life-membership which is awarded to long-standing patchmembers for their contribution to the club. Life-members have the right to take part in the running of the club, however, their attendance at meetings and club events isn’t compulsory. Life-members retain their patch even though they may no longer take an active part in the gang. Some life-members retire although they are still technically part of the gang until they die.
A prospect is a “prospective” member of the club who is yet to earn his patch. Prospects are expected to do what they are told and follow the orders of patchmembers. They must be prepared to engage in illegal activities to prove their loyalty to the gang. Prospects have no voting rights and do not attend meetings unless invited in.
Some gangs have a stage before “prospect” which is known as “hangaround”. The purpose of the hangaround stage is to become known by all members before being accepted as a prospect. The hangaround period can be up to six months.
When gang members leave the gang it’s either on good terms or bad terms. Many ex-members who leave on good terms remain close associates of the gang.
FRIENDS OF THE CLUB
“Friends of the Club” are close supporters of a gang. They are often “regulars” at the clubhouse and actively support the gang, attending functions and taking part in events.
An “associate” of a gang is a (wide-ranging) law enforcement term for persons who are linked to a gang in some way. An associate can include persons who are connected through criminal activity, drugs, family or friends, motorbikes, vehicles, sport, legitimate business interests, social or other interests.
A good book on the internal workings of an outlaw motorcycle gang is...