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Question(s) for motor officers.


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  • Question(s) for motor officers.

    I’m hoping a motor officer or two might answer some questions for me:

    1. Why is it that U.K. and European motor officers seem to do all they can (reflective paint/decals on bikes, orange vests) to enhance their visibility in traffic, but motor officers in the U.S. seem to stick with less visible bikes and uniforms? Admittedly, most of the motor officers I see are with the Illinois State Police, and their bikes and uniforms are always immaculate, but, visibility-wise, they leave a little to be desired (or at least they would for me if I were an ISP motor officer). I understand the tactical need to be visibly subdued, but the risks to officer safety—along with the deterrent factor of being immediately visible as a law enforcement motorcycle—would seem to me to outweigh that. Have any studies been done comparing officer safety for U.K. vs. U.S. motor officers?

    Note to any ISP motor officers: I’m a little concerned that the small red and blue lights on the backs of your bikes aren’t very visible from a good distance. This is especially true of the blue lights, which are barely visible when close.

    2. In another comparison with U.K/European motor officers, I see that most overseas officers wear full-face helmets, while most U.S. officers prefer open-face helmets. Aside from the perception that a fully-helmeted officer might strike a little more fear into the heart of whomever they’ve pulled over, and the time involved in getting a full-face on/off, is there any reason why you’re not wearing a full-face helmet? If you could wear a full-face helmet, would you? What about a Nolan-type flip-up full-face?

    3. Lastly, a non-safety related question: Is riding a motor unit just another part of the job, or do you ride off-duty, too? If you do, what type of bike?

    Thanks for your patience and your service, and sorry for so many questions. I've seen officers do things with their Harleys that I wouldn't attempt to do on my sport-tourer, but as we all know, no amount of experience is going to make you visible to a large percentage of traffic. I recently completed the MSF Experienced Rider Course, and a look at the U.S. motor officer community from this casual observer makes me think that the job could be made safer.

    Ride safe!

  • #2
    1. My agency's bikes did have some reflective decals and I guess like everyone else, went to much brighter strobe lights in the last decade. As for an orange vest, you probably won't see much of that. Motor cops are still COPS and do get involved in real police work. They do wear a lot more protective gear than a patriol officer (thicker pants, leather jackets, boots, etc.) I wouldn't want to be sneaking up to a robbery in progress with a neon sign on. At least in So. Cal., police motors are pretty distinguishable, mostly dark blue uniforms and white helmets.

    2. A neighboring agency to mine did go to full-face helmets. To me, they look like crap and I wouldn't like one just due to the heat. When you're parked working laser, you don't need to be in a cocoon.

    3. I gave up my personal bike soon after going to motors. 40+ hours a week on a bike was plenty for me. But to me it was by far the best assignment I ever had. I used to tell people it beat working for a living.


    • #3
      Thanks for the response, LuvedMyMotor. I hadn't considered the possibility (most likely a fact) that LEOs in the U.S. are more likely to be involved in off-the-bike police work than those in Europe/UK. Orange/yellow gear is definitely increases visibility, which I'm sure you don't want while involved in any kind of bad guy situation.

      For myself, as a biker, wearing anything but a full-face would give me the willies...


      • #4
        Not a motor officer (yet), but I can tell you a few reasons. One, an open face helmet gives more peripheral vision, which is critical for officer safety. Second, it is more comfortable in the heat. The same for the uniform. Wearing leathers on top of body armor, and with a duty belt, is too much.

        I have been riding since '89, and wear an open face. Wore full face for a few years, but came back to an open face because the full face is like being in a box. Hot, can't breathe, can't see as much. I know there is increased risk of injury, and am fully prepared to accept the consequences. The same with riding in shirtsleeves.
        Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. - Ronald Reagan

        I don't think It'll happen in the US because we don't trust our government. We are a country of skeptics, raised by skeptics, founded by skeptics. - Amaroq


        • #5
          1. Our bikes are mostly white, we wear jackets with reflective writing on them and thats about it. A lot of it comes down to what the department will authorize since it is part of our uniform or equipment.

          2. According to surveys the motor uniform is the most intimidating to the public. Our department does not want us looking even more intimidating with the full face helmet. There was talk about the adjustable helmets where the front face flips up, but they do not meet the safety regulations for our equipment. It is not a matter of us preferring to not wear a full face it is our policies that prevent it......I wear full face off duty when I ride.

          3. I work 60-75 hours a week on the bike working so it is kind of hard to get motivated to ride off duty. I have a "cruiser" type bike but it hasn't been ridden in almost a year.


          • #6

            I am leaving my current position and going to traffic nxt week. I am on our motorcycle training course in a couple of months and very much looking forward to it. I have always ridden, last scooter was an FJ1200.

            We wear full leathers and full face helmets that are hinged and you can flip the front up, best of both worlds. Have to say with the tinted visors the full face helmets do look intimidating. We have had a recent push towards wearing reflective vests, basically an arse covering exercise from a workplace safe persepctive. Guess they figure more chane of being knocked over by a car than a gun wielding maniac, so they hedge their bets.

            Handy not having to take them on and off all the time for traffic stops, just flip the front up.


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