Cops get new rides

Clovis Police Lt. Richard Johnson sits atop the first of two Harley-Davidson motorcycles to be placed in service with the Clovis Police Department. Thursday was the first day the bike was used, Johnson said. (CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson)

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

They’re taking to the streets of Clovis on two wheels instead of four, but more isn’t always better, according to police officers who say their new Harley-Davidson patrol units will offer advantages over patrol cars.

Better maneuverability, the ability to work in crowds at events and greater public visibility are just a few of the benefits afforded them through the use of motorcycles, according to Clovis Police Lt. Richard Johnson, who oversees the police department’s uniform services, including the traffic division.

Thursday, Johnson conducted patrol on one of two newly purchased police edition Electra Glides to put it through its paces, he said.

He said people definitely noticed the bike, its pristine white paint still awaiting stripes.

“They’re really responsive,” the 12-year police veteran said. “They like the idea, and of course they’re very nice vehicles.”

Several officers within the department, Johnson included, are qualified to ride, holding motorcycle endorsements and police level certification. Currently, one officer has been selected for motorcycle patrol and another will be assigned within a couple weeks. They will be the primary operators of the bikes.

With the exception of days made impractical for riding by inclement weather, the goal is for the bikes to be used as much as possible.

“We do expect a majority of their time will be on the bikes. We want those motorcycles to be seen. … The public can expect to see one or both of them at any time,” he said.

Beyond traffic patrol, the department plans to utilize the motorcycles for a variety of other purposes.

“(We provide) funeral escorts as a courtesy and a respect. The motorcycles are very effective in that (scenario),” Johnson said, explaining the department is also called upon to escort parades and be present at other events where use of the motorcycles is in many cases the most practical machine for the job.

The police package deviates from a standard Harley-Davidson Electra Glide by virtue of lights and sirens, radio communications and anti-lock brakes. The department also had a digital camera system added for increased documentation of traffic stops and incident responses, Johnson explained.

Purchased from a Santa Fe Harley-Davidson dealer under state contract, the motorcycles will be maintained locally by High Plains Harley-Davidson. BMW models were considered but the department ruled in favor of the Harleys because of local access to service that would avoid shipping the bikes out of town for maintenance, Capt. Patrick Whitney said.

It isn’t the first time Clovis has had a motorcycle unit, Whitney said, explaining the department’s motorcycles had to be returned to Harley-Davidson a few years ago when lease costs rose. In the interim, the department has been pursuing ways to revive the unit and recently combined grant monies and department allocations to bring them back online.

A valuable asset, motorcycles enhance police effectiveness in urban settings on multiple levels, Whitney said.

“They really stand out. They are (great) for escort (duties), and those bikes can go places cars can’t.”

Randy Rhue, High Plains Harley-Davidson business manager, said Clovis has a strong motorcycle community, and it is good to see motorcycle patrols brought back into the area.

A retired state police officer, Rhue can see things as a motorcycle rider and through the eyes of law enforcement.

“It shows that the police aren’t afraid to get out there and ride motorcycles like the public, (and) it makes the officer more approachable by the general public. The officer himself is more visible to the public, (and) it’s a great icebreaker with young people,” he said.

Fast facts

Police edition 2007 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide
• Price tag: About $40,000 for two bikes outfitted with police package
• Gear: Motorcycle officers are provided a jacket, gloves, boots, helmet and
shatter-resistant eyewear.
• Length: Just under 8 feet
• Height: About 5 feet
• Gross weight: 1,200 pounds
• Engine: 96-cubic-inch twin cam 103 engine
• Fuel economy: 46 miles per gallon on the highway, 39 in the city
Source: www.harley-davidson.com