Riding a motorcycle is not just a means of transportation. For law enforcement officers, a motorcycle can be the key to traffic control or apprehending a speeding car. A police officer doesn’t just hop on a motorcycle and go, however. Law enforcement work can be dangerous, especially in situations such as high-speed pursuit with a motorcycle. Becoming an effective motorcycle officer takes specialized training, skill and experience.
Experience and Skill Required
The motorcycle’s maneuverability is vital in police work, allowing the rider to move through traffic gridlock, for example. However, unlike a car, the motorcycle offers no protection to its rider, and a motorcycle can be more unstable than a car in certain situations, such as wet weather. Police officers who ride motorcycles on duty receive specialized training to ensure they can ride safely and perform with maximum efficiency in various traffic situations. Only experienced officers are appointed to motorcycle units, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
About the Training
Police motorcycle training is available from a variety of sources. These training programs are open only to police officers, not the general public. Motorcycle manufacturers offer police officer training, either directly or in collaboration with educational institutions. Government organizations may also offer training programs. A typical basic training program is 80 hours in length. The course covers issues such as slow-speed maneuvering, control, braking, how to negotiate curves and defensive driving techniques. Some courses also include motorcycle maintenance and basic repairs. Courses are offered at various sites throughout the country. The instructors are police officers who have completed basic motorcycle training, as well as more advanced instructor training, according to the Midwest Motorcycle website.
Students must have a valid driver’s license from the state in which they live to take the course. Previous experience riding a motorcycle is required. The officer must have equipment such as wrap-around-lens eyewear, full-fingered gloves, above-the-ankle lace-up boots and a specialized, certified helmet. A leather or Kevlar jacket is optional, but rain gear is recommended. Police motorcycle training programs provide motorcycles for the training course. (ref 3)
The cost of the course varies. The course offered by Northwestern University in collaboration with Harley-Davidson, for example, costs $1,495, as of 2014, for basic training; while instructor training cost $1,795. Instructor re-certification costs $150. In Oregon, however, officer training is free, as it is supported by the Oregon Department of Transportation.
- PoliceOne.com: Working on Two Wheels
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Police and Detectives
- Northwestern University: Police Motorcycle Operator Training
- Midwest Motorcycle Training: Home Page
- Team Oregon: Advanced Motors Training
- Team Oregon: Eligibility Requirements
- Northwestern University: Course Search Results
- Photo Credit TIM MCCAIG/iStock/Getty Images
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