Bring out the hogs

Believe it or not: Bremerton Police officers will hop on Harleys and start cruising in school zones on a regular basis.

The goal isn’t to add a tougher, more-tattooed look to the police department — it is actually to save lives.

After receiving an $8,251 grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, the BPD will kick-start a motorcycle program that has been dormant for years.

Currently, cops use motorcycles to monitor crowds at the Blackberry Festival or Armed Forces Day parade, but they have not been used to nab speeders since Ronald Reagan was president.

The Police Department currently has one motorcycle model made in 1972, one made in 1984 and another made in 1985.

“The department is at a decision point to upgrade to newer, more efficient and dependable motorcycles, or to continue spending large sums of money on the present equipment,” Police Chief Rob Forbes said in the grant statement.

Having motorcycles on the force is important for a number of reasons, according to officer Peter Fisher, who along with officer Brent Prante, was recently trained for 80 hours in police motorcycle safety.

“You get better interaction from the community,” he said. “People are more willing to approach you on a motorcycle.”

Also, motorcycles can slip into tight spaces to catch speeders in traffic or respond to accidents.

“If we have a collision we can weave through traffic on the center line,” Fisher said.

Motorcycles are also less noticeable than cop cars, so two-wheeled officers can issue more citations per hour then their four-doored associates.

In August of this year, Fisher and Prante conducted citation research on their bikes, which revealed that they could issue about double the amount of tickets as they could in cars.

Also, according to the Los Angeles Motorcycle Study, injury and fatality traffic collisions decreased in areas monitored by motorcycles instead of police patrol cars.

As part of their training, the officers weaved between cones and rode their motorcycles on inclines — sometimes at regular speeds and some at excessive conditions.

“We were doing stuff at 80 or 90 miles an hour on the motorcycles,” said Fisher.

He fell once and took off a portion skin on his arm, and Prante later burned his leg on the engine.

So far, the officers have been riding their bikes in school zones in preparation for contract work.

As part of the grant, they will ride 516 total hours in those zones. The purpose is to operate a zero-tolerance seatbelt policy and cut down on speeding incidents.

To lease two motorcycles, the BPD will trade in their three older-modeled bikes to Harley Davidson for about $8,000.

In exchange they will receive a one year lease on two 2003 model customized Harley Davidson Road King motorcycles and upgraded gear.

The grant covers the difference.

As for funding the program next year, Forbes vows to find a way.

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