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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Police Motorcycles

I find it intriguing that our local police forces continue to use Harley-Davidson motorcycles. I understand that some of the characteristics of a Harley are beneficial to cops riding in traffic. You can certainly hear them from a distance, which for our distracted and unfocused drivers is an important safety feature. They have a lower centre of gravity which somewhat helps in low speed maneuvers and for parking enforcement duty when you have to frequently stop and park your bike. But the high speed stability, safety features and braking performance of the competition from BMW, Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha are simply too important to ignore. The overall performance of H-D bikes versus the competition is laughable. It makes you wonder how the leaders of our police forces make their choices when it comes to officer safety and comfort.

Some years ago a sales team from BMW convinced Toronto Police to purchase a small number of bikes for our officers. ABS was just introduced to motorcycles and BMW was the first company to offer the system on their bikes. I was walking by a funeral home one day and there was a Toronto Police escort team with four bikes waiting for a funeral. One of the bikes was a police issue BMW with an officer standing right next to his machine. I asked him if he liked the bike and if other officers were interested in riding them. I also asked why there weren't more if these machines out on our streets and highways. He told me that you needed to take a special course in order to qualify to ride the bikes and that most officers found them "too fast". I couldn't believe my ears! Imagine that! A police motorcycle too fast! The BMW and the Japanese police bikes are based on their sport touring models, not sports bikes, yet our cops think that they are too fast!

Here is what one of the officers form the US said about H-D police bikes when they tested them before purchase: "Harley was the worst of what we tested. Slow, hot, didn't handle very well. Local agencies that use them had some bad comments about the maintenance and the companies doing the maintenance."

Just look at the pictures of the various police motorcycles. You see a British police BMW, a South African cop on his Honda, a Japanese police issue Honda and a couple of California Highway Patrol cops riding their Kawasaki's. The Harley pictured on top is ridden by an Ottawa Police officer escorting the Queen during her last visit. Are our cops stuck in the sixties or what?

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