Keeping motor cops safe with a break-in program

Prior to deploying motorcycles, a department should seek out a training school that provides thorough and challenging training — look for schools that include a field break-in period or that could help you set up a motorcycle break-in program

Motorcycle training is comprised of a broad spectrum of events — from initial training schools to rodeos and advanced skills demonstrations — that provide instruction, allows participants to perform skills, and subsequently receive critiques of their performance. 

Most departments require motorcycle officers to attend initial training before deploying on motorcycle patrol. Most departments provide some level of initial training for motorcycle officers, either through an internal school or a local motorcycle academy. 

The level of initial training can vary greatly from one department to another. Some departments will choose a school where their candidates will be challenged and only those who demonstrate a consistent level of competence will receive a certificate. Many of these schools see only about half of their students complete the training on their first attempt. Other departments will choose a school with a higher success rate. 

Some agencies will require riders to attend an initial training school prior to deploying on motorcycle patrol, while others will allow officers to deploy on motorcycle patrol before attending an initial training school. The latter may deploy the new rider with a seasoned motorcycle officer for a time, allowing the new officer to become comfortable with the motorcycle before attending the training class.

Break-in Period
Police motorcycle operation is a discipline that demands a consistent high level of skill, coupled with a healthy dose of good judgment. 

Initial motorcycle training schools are good for setting the minimum amount of skill necessary to safely operate an enforcement motorcycle, but all motorcycle officers should have a separate time to develop good judgment.

That time should occur immediately upon completing initial motorcycle training, and should take the form of motorcycle break-in. This time can be critical for motorcycle officers to establish and learn to apply good judgment in riding the motorcycle. That good judgment includes daily events to reinforce skills and establish their recognition of the motorcycle as a tool, not a status symbol. Recognizing the motorcycle as a tool and establishing an early mindset of safety can be critical in the development of the new motorcycle officer. 

Field break-in is a critical time in the development of new motorcycle officers. The program should be broken into specific milestones, designed to build the new motorcycle officer’s skills and confidence. The initial phase should allow for there to be a lot of input from the training officer. The two officers should ride paired up, side by side, and avoid normal patrol duties. Although new to motorcycle duty, the officer is generally seasoned and should not need to be trained on the aspects of patrol duties. The pair should avoid freeways, riding at night, and specialized assignments during this time. 

By riding on surface streets, the training officer is able to observe much more of the trainee’s judgment and allows for easier communication. 

•    This initial training phase should provide for a lot of constructive criticism 
•    The second phase should introduce the trainee to freeways and night patrols 

The training officer should demonstrate techniques for making traffic stops on the motorcycle, where to position the motorcycle at various types of incidents, and cover specific policies established by their department during this time. During the third and final phase, the trainee should begin to resume normal patrol duties, answering radio calls and generating self-initiated activity. 

Each phase should generate discussion between the pair and produce written progress reports at regular intervals. Most schools can help you set up a successful motorcycle field break-in program — or increase the safety and success of your current program — by providing training and certification for motorcycle training officers. 

Training Continuously and Ongoing
Because motorcycle patrol is a specialized skill, regular training events should be a part of your motorcycle program. Events such as ride-alongs with training officers and/or supervisors should occur at regular intervals. 

Motorcycle training days need to occur with some frequency, and update or in-service training should occur at least bi-annually. Additionally, when a rider is absent from motorcycle duty for an extended period of time, or if they are unable to demonstrate proficiency at a training event, they should be assigned to work with a motorcycle training officer until their level of proficiency is reestablished. 

If a rider has been away from motorcycle duty for over a year, the department should seriously consider allowing the officer to repeat the initial training school. The department may then want to provide a modified break-in period for officers returning to motorcycle duty.

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