The Bakersfield Police Department is bringing back its motorcycle unit. City officials chose to discontinue its motorcycle program last year due to safety concerns. BPD Sgt. Brian Holcombe told Government Fleet that motorcycles are popular among officers and are often seen as a benefit for officer morale and recruitment. They can be used to weave through traffic more easily than a patrol car and are considered an effective deterrent for crime.
“While they see other patrol vehicles in our city, they know that that could be special enforcement, that can be a patrol officer, that can be a traffic officer — they all drive the same black-and white-car and there’s no distinction,” Holcombe said. “But when somebody sees that motorcycle along the road, they know that the primary function of that unit is traffic control.”
City Manager Alan Tandy told 23ABC that safety was a primary concern. Eight officers have been killed in the line of duty in the history of BPD. Five of those officers were on motorcycles at the time. In addition, motorcycle injuries have led to three forced retirements and 39 workers' compensation claims totaling $1.7 million.
Although the motorcycles are returning, the motorcycle program will not remain the same. Holcombe said the program will start slow, with four new motorcycles and motor officers. Now, only officers with an existing motorcycle license will be allowed to apply for the motor officer program. Previously, any officer was invited to apply, and some had never been on a bike.
BPD will increase its training requirements, with quarterly training sessions instead of annual training sessions. Once the program is set up, officers will be deployed two at a time to improve visibility and will only patrol during daylight hours. In addition, motorcycle patrol will be limited to certain areas, including a busy street during rush hour, near school zones, or around a special event.
As an extra precaution, motor officers will be given specialty uniforms made from Kevlar to minimize the impact on an officer in the case of a collision and to add more support for the spine.
Related: Motor Units Are Resource Multipliers