(WASHINGTON) - Daviess County citizens may have begun to see two motorcycle officers cruising the county's roads
Andrea McCann, of the Washington Times-Herald reports though the program isn't officially in place yet, the Daviess County Sheriff's Department has taken the first steps to add motorcycle patrols to its arsenal.
"I think it's going to take us to a whole new level," said Deputy Aaron Harbstreit, who was one of the first to go through training.
Harbstreit and Lt. Det. Bill Dougherty recently completed a two-week training course with the department's "new" 2009 Harley Davidson Electra Glides. Six to eight other deputies are interested in the training, and Sheriff Jerry Harbstreit anticipates they'll all eventually be trained on the Harleys.
The Evansville Police Department hosts the training school. Motor Officer Jeff Hands, one of the instructors, said they teach slow-speed maneuverability and control for situations such as escorting a 5k run or leading a parade; crash avoidance, which highlights curb negotiation, braking and evasive maneuvers; team riding, which focuses on things like proper use of turn signals and lane changes when riding together on the interstate; how to properly escort VIPs; and an introduction into using a motorcycle for concealment when there's shooting involved.
"They did very good," Hands said of the two Daviess County deputies. "They listened to what we told them. When they made mistakes, they didn't repeat them. We were very pleased.
"We've been doing (the training) 10 years and it's probably the best class we've had. We even got ahead, so we did some rodeo things to challenge them."
Hands said two to three students out of 10 won't pass the course. But Dep. Harbstreit scored 100 percent in the course, and Dougherty earned a 98 percent.
"Down the road, after a couple years of seat time, Aaron would be a good one to go to instructors school," Hands said, explaining the deputy caught on quickly, understood how to correct mistakes, and helped others who were struggling.
He said Sheriff Harbstreit watched and learned along with his deputies.
"The sheriff's definitely going about it the right way getting training and equipment," he continued.
Sheriff Harbstreit said getting motorcycles had been discussed off and on for a while, but after seeing the interest generated among the public and the deputies when the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Department brought their motorcycles to safety day last year, he decided to move forward. The VCSD deputies were aware the Bloomington police were halting their motorcycle program and their bikes would be available for a good price, and that got the ball rolling.
The sheriff said he worked out a good deal on the bikes and had the money in his transportation budget. The Electra Glides need only radios, radar and Sheriff's Department stickers. They'll eventually also have computers, Dougherty said. Uniform needs are minimal and are covered in the deputies' clothing budget. That left only training.
"I didn't want the deputies to go out there on these and not be ready," Sheriff Harbstreit said.
He said the officers trained on sand, loose gravel, wooded trails, Ohio River levees, wet grass and river bottoms.
"They learned how to lay them down if they have to," he said. "They learned to utilize them in a lot of different circumstances."
According to the sheriff and his deputies, the benefits of having the motorcycles available are many.
"Ensuring citizen safety is the top priority," Dougherty said.
The Harleys can be used in tighter spaces than cars or SUVs, so they'll come in handy for school zones, parks, accident scenes, and the narrower streets and alleys of the county's towns.
"You can take them anywhere," Dep. Harbstreit said. "They can go where cars can't."
He said they're agile, versatile and average 35-40 mpg -- much better than the department's other vehicles.
"You can ride in pretty much any kind of weather," he added.
The deputies said they can see and smell more from the motorcycles than they can from their cars.
"We're a lot more accessible on the motorcycles," Dougherty added. He said people seem less intimidated coming up to them when they're on the motorcycles than when they're in their cars.
"They're finding it's an awesome PR tool," Sheriff Harbstreit said, explaining that people have been waving and talking to the deputies about the bikes. He added that they'll be useful at school demonstrations, as well.
"I just think there's no end to what we can do with these in PR work and on the road."
The sheriff said he believes the motorcycles are a positive move for the department. With I-69 coming through the county, he said he can see them being used there.
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