PCPD is revving up its partnership with local law enforcement as it hosts a Police Motorcycle Training Course for the first time. For two weeks, four students learned how to become master riders on the massive bikes and will soon be hitting the streets to patrol.
Three trainees from Florida Highway Patrol and one PCPD trainee are learning in the scorching heat under the tutelage of experts from PCPD and FHP.
“Usually larger agencies host themselves and smaller agencies such as us, we usually fall in on another agency,” Sgt. Al Van Duyne, spokesman for PCPD and motorcycle aficionado, said.
Due to complications with other sites, FHP was in need of a place to train. PCPD stepped up and offered its facilities. Van Duyne said PCPD, especially under the leadership of Duncan, tries to collaborate with other agencies.
Law enforcement has to be able to pull off sharp turns, navigate rugged terrain and handle intense situations to effectively do their jobs. Just knowing how to ride isn’t enough to get you certified.
“It’s very daunting, it’s very scary,” Van Duyne said. “They ride big ole’ Harley Davidson motorcycles and the police officers do things on them that most motorists don’t do with regard to turning, they have a very, very tight turn radius that requires them leaning the bike over at extreme angles.”
The rider has to know their bike inside and out, instructor Jeff Mason, senior trooper, said. Knowing the limits, learning its friction zone, lets the motorist know the line between success and disaster. They train in complex drills, off-road and briefly in the classroom. By the time the two weeks are up they should be ready to start their shifts.
“Let’s say we have to respond to a shooting, or a bad crash, we’re probably going to need to be able to drive these bikes right onto the sidewalks and curbs without stopping, without wasting any time,” instructor Kyle Russell, senior police officer, said. “We don’t ride like civilians.”
Steven Dachs, Tony Horne and Phillip McMillan were training for FHP and Jason Fowler trained for PCPD. On top of being taught by Russell and Mason, they were able to learn from Jack Hypes, a master trooper that trained Mason and went to school with Van Duyne. He stopped in multiple times throughout the two weeks.
Patrolling on a motorcycle adds another layer of danger to an already risky occupation. Both Hypes and Mason shared stories of being hit while on duty. Mason was hit in April and is just coming back. A driver had a heart attack and slammed into him, ejecting him 32 feet off his bike. Hypes was struck a year ago on I-4 and was pinned under the car of an Uber driver.
“Most of us get injured not from riding, but standing on the side of the road,” Hypes said. “When you’re on a traffic stop is when you’re hit the most. I was underneath an Uber driver’s car. He had a seizure and ran over me. Cracked vertebrae in my back, broke bones, knocked my bottom teeth out.”
Some accidents are medically induced, but many come from people simply not paying attention.
Regardless of the risks, these officers love the work. Mason said it’s the “thrill of the challenge” and the officers who have a career on the bikes rarely ever want to leave for another path.
“These trainees they ride with senior guys and get the nuances on how to avoid accidents,” Van Duyne said. “They train hard and hopefully, by the end of this, the combined experience of those leading these trainings and the intense days running drills helps make extremely prepared and qualified motorists.”