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Texas police motorcycle certification course aims to improve officers’ safety

The state’s new Law Enforcement Motor Standard is offered free of charge

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This free class was introduced to its first group of students at the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Florence training facility in May 2022.

Photo/Mike Richey

In Texas as well as some other states, there are currently no training requirements for police motorcycle personnel. Consequently, as long as an officer, deputy or trooper has a Class M license, he or she could be asked to perform as a motorcycle officer – arguably the most dangerous job in police work.

In an effort to reduce the frequency of such occurrences and provide suitable training to equip motorcycle officers, police leaders in Texas developed the Law Enforcement Motor Standard (LEMS).

This free class was introduced to its first group of students at the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Florence training facility in May 2022.

DEVELOPING A COURSE

Talks of a need for this type of program began at a motorcycle training symposium in Fort Worth, Texas approximately four years ago. Later, as I spoke with retired Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Nathan Fox, we began to develop a plan. We looked at how law enforcement personnel on motorcycles died in traffic crashes. Most of these heroes’ lives were lost due to one of three things:

  • Oncoming traffic turning left in front of them
  • Vehicles pulling out from a roadway entrance on the left or right
  • Being rear-ended while slowing or stopping

As instructors, it was imperative for us to equip motor officers to be aware of these threats and respond accordingly.

We reached out to many different agencies to determine their current training. All were gracious and willing to share their programs to help us build something new to equip our operators and instructors. We obtained training material from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Portland (Oregon) Police Bureau, Los Angeles Police Department, Phoenix (Arizona) Police Department and Tempe (Arizona) Police Department. Fox and I compiled a new curriculum from these sources, our home agencies and previous training experiences. We are both motorcycle instructors certified by Northwestern University Center for Public Safety, and Fox is a certified motorcycle instructor through Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX).

In March 2022 we had instructors from across the state vet the curriculum at the Texas DPS training facility. These included Aaron Estep, Fort Worth PD; Ben Fletcher, Houston PD; Richard Gallardo, McAllen PD; Ursula Lamb, Dallas PD; Kolby Musick, Texas DPS; Tim Saulter, San Antonio PD; Bo Stegall, Grand Prairie PD; Ed White, Dallas PD; and John Wills, Austin PD. At the end of the week, motorcycle personnel from Austin, Bryan, Round Rock, Jonestown and the Texas DPS participated in the riding exam to review the course’s effectiveness and level of difficulty.

WHAT DO OFFICERS LEARN?

The general lesson plan follows the format from Arizona DPS. We use a left-turn avoidance exercise from Portland PB to combat the hazards of oncoming cars turning in front of motorcycle officers.

We employ a rear-end avoidance exercise used by Fort Worth PD. Braking speeds of 55 mph are implemented with appropriate-length braking chutes.

We adapt a pattern from LAPD to equip officers to turn around on violators, and we use the LAPD’s circle cone weave as the first texted exercise.

We cover street survival skills to increase the visibility of motorcycles and raise awareness of roadway hazards. We develop curve negotiation skills with an oval pattern that’s 200 by 50 feet. We provide examples of student riding challenges and cover nighttime riding and safety equipment for directing traffic. We introduce motorcycle content from the Texas traffic code. Tactical firearm training scenarios are covered, as well as a sample of a field motor training officer program.

We also provide rules for implementing the LEMS program and forms such as daily evaluation reports for operator and instructor students, riding exams, written exams for operators and instructors, biographies for instructors, affidavits for training, certificates and sample school schedules.

The Law Enforcement Motor Standard is available to agencies in states other than Texas. The comprehensive training manuals may be easily adapted for use by substituting other states’ traffic codes for motorcycles. After all, as law enforcement motorcycle operators, we are viewed as experts in motorcycle law and frequently asked questions about those laws by citizens.

CONCLUSION

The beauty of the LEMS program is the statewide availability of schools and recertifications for instructors at no cost. Twenty-three train-the-trainer instructors and 11 instructors were certified at the initial school. These instructors came from across Texas. The Fort Worth Police Department alone has held two classes since the initial course in Florence to develop new instructors. There is no recertification class to maintain instructor certifications; it is only required to teach ongoing training. Every 24 months trainers and instructors must either instruct or assist in instructing recurring police motorcycle training totaling 80 hours or teach or assist in teaching a LEMS introductory police motorcycle operator training course.

The model of this course promotes ongoing training of operators to retain instructor certifications. The end goal of better equipping police motorcycle operators is achieved through relevant, realistic training, more interagency information sharing and increased training opportunities for the operator.

If your agency would like more information about the Law Enforcement Motor Standard program, please email LawEnforcementMotorStandard@gmail.com.

Mike Richey has worked for the Fort Worth Police Department since 1994. He has served in a variety of positions such as patrol, mounted patrol and over 20 years as a motor officer. He is currently the Motorcycle Training Coordinator for the Fort Worth Police Department.

He has competed in numerous police motorcycle skills competitions, hosted outside agencies coast to coast for motor training, as well as traveled across the U.S. to instruct other motor officers. He received the State of Texas Award for Professional Achievement for motor officer training and has authored several articles concerning motorcycle policing.

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