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7 considerations for buying a police motorcycle

Selecting a police motorcycle for the motor unit can be daunting, but the strategic advantage of the motor unit is worth it

Motor units are indispensible. In a municipal department, an officer on a motorcycle can arrive at the scene quicker than the vehicle that has to negotiate congested traffic. A quick response means rapid scene survey and efficient resource deployment. Some manufacturers have explored other first responder advantages, like Harley-Davidson’s fire/rescue models.

In a rural department, a motorcycle is an efficient way of negotiating changing terrain.

When it comes to special enforcement, officers on motorcycles can deploy covertly or put more officers on a scene in a shorter period of time, thus increasing officer safety.

When equipping the motor unit, don’t forget to consider special application motorcycles like dual-sport bikes, successfully applied to urban agencies with extensive park systems, and pedestrian congested areas, which are perfect for electric motorcycles.

Even though police motorcycle manufacture is really a niche industry, manufacturers do an excellent job catering to police customers. For example, Victory Police Motorcycles has a grant writing assistance program that can help any agency get their motor unit up and running. Similarly, Zero Motorcycles — makers of the all-electric police motorcycle — has successfully helped police agencies tap into local grant funding, like their recent equipping of Ceres (California) Police Department. Remember, there are some indoor venues that could really use one of these.

When considering a new motorcycle model, consider the following:

1. If you have an existing motor unit, ask your motor officers first and include them in all the decision-making processes.

As components are added to the package, have them try them out before finalizing anything.

This strategy will also eliminate a lot of the officer comfort issues up front. For example, some officers will need a higher or lower seat height or handlebar reach for efficiency.

2. Dealer availability and distance from the agency is a consideration.

3. Leasing/buy back programs may be questionable when purchasing the family car, but they are a good method for obtaining police motorcycles.

If your agency goes with a leasing plan and the motorcycle package includes the lighting and equipment, it will often eliminate unexpected costs in a planned budget. This is best applied when the dealer is close to the agency.

Bear in mind that even if the dealer installs the lights and siren equipment, they will likely be under a separate warranty. Ask the dealership how they deal with warranty issues.

4. If safety products consistent with the department’s policy and training can’t be mounted, find a different motorcycle. That is, if your agency issues carbines to officers and the motorcycle can only mount a shotgun, it is time to move on. By the way, if the department policy does not include adding carbines to the motor unit, change the policy.

5. Acceleration and handling are important. Most officers will tell you that the quicker the bike comes up to a cruising speed, the shorter the time the officer will spend at higher speeds. In other words, quicker bikes are safer. Fortunately, the purpose built bikes available generally have acceleration and handling appropriate for police work. Use the Michigan State Police testing (reputably the best) for honest comparisons of vehicles. Pay particular attention to the comments on counter steering characteristics.

6. If your agency uses the city/county/municipality/university fleet to do routine maintenance, look at the manufacturers’ fleet training policy. Some manufacturers can bring training right to the fleet team and certify them.

7. Your agency policy should be consulted. For example, if you routinely use your motor unit for public relations opportunities like parades, vacation residence checks or community policing, the bike that can idle at 5mph for a while may be a better choice.

Every police agency in the country can benefit from a police motorcycle and the applications are endless. Motor units usually train more often than other assignments, set the uniform standard and provide a unique venue for public relations.

Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer and retired military small arms trainer. He teaches criminal justice at Hartnell College in Salinas, California. He has a BS in Criminal Justice and an MS in Online Teaching and Learning. Lindsey has taught shooting techniques for over a decade. His articles on firearms tactics have appeared in print for over a decade. Lindsey enjoys competing in shooting sports, running, and cycling events.