Fort McCoy News August 09, 2013

Law enforcement trains with police motorcycles

STORY & PHOTOS BY ROB SCHUETTE
Public Affairs Staff

Motorcycle handling and safety skills learned during a training course at the Wisconsin State Patrol Academy at Fort McCoy will help law-enforcement officers do their jobs more efficiently and safely.

The Northwestern University Center for Public Safety partnered with Harley Davidson to present the two-phase course in July. The first phase taught four law-enforcement officers, who already were trained to ride law enforcement motorcycles, how to be instructors.

Photo 1 for WSPA article
Law-enforcement personnel with limited police motorcycle experience learn to ride police motorcycles during training at the Wisconsin State Patrol Academy at Fort McCoy.

The second phase featured the new instructors supporting instructors from Northwestern in training law-enforcement personnel who have limited previous experience riding motorcycles.

Rick Humphreys, a Northwestern instructor, said the new instructors helped support the training by bringing their up-to-date knowledge to the instruction.

"Skills can vanish fast for personnel who aren't actively involved in riding motorcycles to support law-enforcement objectives," Humphreys said. "The new instructors bring this to the training and can help the new riders learn the correct procedures."

The course is designed to take the law-enforcement personnel through exercises from slower to faster speeds. He said although the speeds may differ, the techniques are the same.

Aaron Prohovnik, a State Patrol trooper from the State Patrol Northwest Region in Barron, said many people could probably handle the motorcycles fairly easily when riding them on a straightaway.

The skill comes in controlling motorcycles and maneuvering them safely at lower speeds and when braking.

"The class helped show officers the fundamentals of braking, which is one of the most key and fundamental things you can do on a motorcycle," Prohovnik said. "It teaches you to provide just enough power to the rear wheels to keep the motorcycles upright."

Photo 2 for WSPA article
Aaron Prohovnik, a State Patrol trooper, trains to become a police motorcycle training instructor at the Wisconsin State Patrol Academy's Evasive Vehicle Operations Course at Fort McCoy.

Motorcycles have an advantage in maneuverability over sedans on two-lane roads. He said it is much easier to turn a motorcycle around and head in the other direction to engage someone breaking the law, such as speeding.

Prohovnik said motorcycles also can have an advantage versus a sedan in travelling through congested traffic to reach the scene of a crash.

In the Northwest Region, personnel can use the motorcycle training during an inservice day, he said.

Newly trained law-enforcement personnel also can share their knowledge during public events hosted by their organization.

"That will help everyone be safer riding motorcycles on public roads," he said.

Humphreys said the motorcycle training sessions at the State Patrol Academy attracted law-enforcement personnel from local and state agencies throughout Wisconsin and from Illinois and Missouri.

That means the training information will be shared and available to a large number of personnel. This is the case wherever the training is offered, he added.
The use of motorcycles by law-enforcement personnel is a great public relations tool for law enforcement, as well.

People who see law-enforcement personnel on a motorcycle believe they are more accessible and are more likely to talk to the officers riding them. It also helps build rapport with youth, he said. Using a police motorcycle rather than an automobile is more economical from the standpoint of the purchase price, gas consumption and maintenance costs.

Bryan Ashenbrenner of the State Patrol Northeast Region in Fond du Lac said taking the riders course as a student was tough, but very beneficial as it presented a lot of information.

The course taught class members techniques to ride a police motorcycle versus a personal motorcycle off duty, Ashenbrenner said. "I'm looking forward to using a police motorcycle in the line of duty."

Adam Thayer of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department from Fort Atkinson, Wis., said the course taught him how to handle a police motorcycle.

"Right now I'm a patrol officer and that is less visible than the police motorcycle will be," Thayer said. "This (using a police motorcycle) will allow us to conduct better law enforcement and build better community relationships. When you're on a motorcycle people will walk up and talk to you. The bikes also are appealing to younger people."

Matthew Hagen of the Kenosha Police Department said the police motorcycles will be excellent for law-enforcement purposes and community relations, such as for parades.

"The motorcycles often can get you to a place faster than a squad car can," Hagen said. "We learned a lot about the capabilities of a bike of this size compared to the sport bikes."