I hereby nominate Joseph Massey as Maine’s Police Chief of the Year.

Why? Because the head of the Waterville Police Department is going where few if any law enforcement executives in these parts have gone before: He’s taking on Vinnie VaRoom.

Remember Vinnie? He’s that here, there and everywhere motorcyclist, as portrayed in this space about a year ago, who measures his manhood by how many eardrums he can shatter with his “straight pipe” muffler system (translation: no mufflers at all).

He’s the guy who, with a simple twist of his throttle, can stop a porch conversation in its tracks, drown out the siren of an approaching ambulance and turn entire downtowns into high-decibel echo chambers.

He’s the guy with the baffling inability to look in his mirror and see that while we may be waving to him, we’re not using anywhere close to all five fingers.

In short, Vinnie is a jerk. And now, at long last, his days appear to be numbered.

Effective last weekend, Chief Massey ordered his Waterville officers to do something long overdue throughout Maine: Pull over obnoxiously loud motorcycles and slap their drivers with a summons for excessive noise.

So far, Massey said in an interview last week, his department has issued nine citations to motorcyclists (along with a few others for automobiles that were off the decibel charts.) He’s doing it, he said, for two reasons.

First, citizen complaints about loud bikes only increase with each passing summer.

“At almost any time of day in this city, you can hear a motorcycle from almost a half mile away,” Massey said. “For me, it’s simply a matter of enforcement.”

Which brings us to the second reason.

During its last session, the Legislature amended the state’s muffler law to make it easier for police to crack down on guys like Vinnie VaRoom.

For starters, lawmakers defined “excessive or unusual noise” simply as “motor noise emitted by a motor vehicle that is noticeably louder than similar vehicles in the environment.”

They also tweaked a part of the statute that previously made it illegal to modify a muffler system only if the intent was to make the vehicle louder. Now, there’s no longer a need for police to prove intent — if the end result is a louder vehicle, the law has been broken.

The new law, without a doubt, still could be stronger. Just last week, a task force created by the Legislature sat down with motorcycle industry representatives in Augusta to learn more about the “J2825” test — a procedure developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers by which a decibel meter can accurately and easily measure a motorcycle’s noise during a roadside stop.

Maine State Police Lt. Brian Scott, who chairs the group, said the goal is to report back to the next Legislature by January with a plan to take any guesswork out of the noise equation and instead give officers a specific set of benchmarks for determining when a motorcycle (or any other vehicle, for that matter), is too loud.

In Waterville, however, Massey considers enforcing the current law a matter of “simple common sense.”

“Actually, I think we’re being very lenient,” Massey said. “I tell my officers, ‘Let that motorcycle get 100 yards ahead of you. And with your windows rolled up and your radio on, can you clearly hear it?’ We don’t have to make borderline enforcements here. Let’s do the very ridiculous, excessive ones.”

Massey, by the way, is not the only law-enforcement official in Maine looking for ways to make Vinnie VaRoom behave. A joint operation by the York County Sheriff’s Office and police from Kennebunk and Kennebunkport last weekend netted 16 motorcycles (and six automobiles) operating without inspection stickers on Route 1 in Arundel.

“Our only purpose was to check for safety-inspection stickers. We wrote no summonses for exhaust or noise or anything like that,” said York County Sheriff Maurice Ouellette, adding that the officers did take the time to warn the appropriate motorcyclists about “what’s coming down the road.”

Should the next Legislature set hard-and-fast decibel limits on vehicle noise, Ouellette added, he’d be all for ratcheting up his enforcement.

“If I could write a grant and get (a decibel meter) for each cruiser, I’d put one in each cruiser,” he said.

Massey, meanwhile, sees no reason to wait. He’s taken too many calls from irate Waterville residents and watched too many windows rattle on Main Street to keep turning a deaf ear to what he now considers a top law-enforcement priority.

And judging from the growing pile of thank-you cards on his desk, he’s clearly on the right track with his community.

At the same time, of course, Massey came under attack last week from bikers who say he’s picking on them, he’s “profiling,” he’s abusing his authority.

In fact, as the Waterville Morning Sentinel reported, a group of Harley-Davidson owners has begun circulating a petition aimed at rolling back the changes in the state law. Gordon Austin of Canaan, one of those summonsed by Waterville police, told the newspaper, “Everyone’s just ripping, roaring mad.”

(Again, the noise thing!)

But Massey, brave man, said he won’t back down. Like so many of us, he’s had it with the Vinnie VaRooms of this world and their my-way-rules-the-highway assault on basic common courtesy.

“The bottom line for them is, ‘This is an attention-grabber for me. When I go by in my motorcycle and your windows rattle, I’m being cool,’” Massey said. “The whole idea of the noise is to get attention.”

Which, at long last, they’re getting.

From a police chief.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

[email protected]