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Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Ready to rev up the hog for St. Marys patrol duties

By Janie Southard
ST. MARYS - A police officer could be patrolling the city on a 900-pound hog beginning next month.
City council is in the process of approving a lease for a 2008 Harley Davidson Road King motorcycle for a total of $15,000, with $3,000 going for the three-year lease and the remainder for law enforcement devices to be equipped to the bike.
"Most of the equipment expense deals with radar and radio systems. But if (the motorcycle) doesn't work out for us, we can pull that equipment because we own it," Safety Service Director Tom Hitchcock said. "This is a good deal for us - cheap. We can try it out for very little money."
This is a special program Harley Davidson maintains just for law enforcement agencies, according to St. Marys Patrolman Brian Christopher, who has been a motorcycle rider for 10 years and owns his own bike.
"If this works out for us, we'll just transfer that equipment to another brand new leased bike when this lease runs out and it will still be only $1,000 a year," Christopher said this morning.
Currently the bike retails for about $24,000 and the department could choose to buy the bike at the end of the lease for around $14,000.
It would seem the company is eager to get the leased bikes back on the market as there is a big market for motorcycles used in "the line of duty."
"They tell me there are a whole lot of collectors out there who want these motorcycles," he said.
Christopher is aware that some residents are saying "why waste this money after all, we'll not Atlanta or Chicago."
"Well, right, this isn't a big metropolis. But this is a good deal for us. We could buy it at a good price; or we can keep with the lease program and have a brand new bike every three years for not a lot of money," he said. "I'll bet we spend at least $1,000 a month to run a cruiser."
Cruisers get about 12 miles per gallon of gasoline, and the motorcycle is expected to almost triple that at 35 mpg.
Obviously Christopher has a motorcycle endorsement on his license as does Sgt. Ted Copeland, who will share bike duty on a part-time basis. Christopher is to be the full-time officer on the bike.
There is no required special training to ride a motorcycle. Either you know how to do it or you don't; however, Harley Davidson does offer custom training to law enforcement officers on an annual basis.
That training includes shooting from the bike, laying it down in certain emergency situations without getting hurt and, just as important, picking it up and getting back on the road.
"It's real important you learn how to pick it up because that bike weighs around 900 pounds," he said.
This won't be the first cop on a bike to travel St. Marys' streets, which is mainly where the motorcycle patrol will work. Some local residents recall that back in the 1950s, the police department had a motorcycle.
"I know the state park had a motorcycle for one year a few years back. I thought that was interesting and it got me to thinking," Christopher said. "I knew Harley had a lease program and I mentioned it. The chief (Greg Foxhoven) was interested and so was the mayor (Greg Freewalt), but it wasn't the right time then. This year it was brought up again and it looks like it will work out."
City council on Monday approved first reading on acquiring the motorcycle and plan to hear second reading at the next regular council meeting on Sept. 22. The motorcycle, leased through Jim's Harley-Davidson Sales in Mendon, can be available on Oct. 3.
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