Blue Line

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The long and winding road


January 15, 2015
By Andy Norrie

Motorcycles have been used for police operations since the early 1900s and have remained a premier platform, especially excelling at traffic enforcement and public relations duties.

Their small foot-print, maneuverability and public appeal have ensured a place at the forefront of modern policing. I can think of no greater symbol of traffic safety then a police officer astride a motorcycle.

{The high cost of success}

More than 1,100 motor officers have made the ultimate sacrifice while performing their duties and countless others have suffered life altering injuries. Police motorcycle collisions rank third in the cause of death of US police officers, behind only automobile collisions and gunfire (source: odmp.com).

{Risk management}

Motorcycling in and of itself is a risky undertaking. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2005 statistics, motorcyclists are eight times more likely to be injured in a crash and 34 times more likely to be killed than a car driver per vehicle mile traveled. Adding policing duties only increases the risk.

Modern policing has embraced the concept of risk management – evaluating or comparing risks and working to reduce or eliminate them.

Increasing safety for police and the public and minimizing agency liability exposure is a worthy and admirable aspiration. History and research show that good training – sound initial basic instruction and ongoing, progressive instruction – will minimize risk.

{Information is power}

The World Wide Association of Motor Officers (WWAMO) is undertaking a survey to determine the size and nature of police motorcycle operations throughout North America and the types and depth of training provided. This information will be used to forge the future direction of training.

WWAMO was formed in the late 1990s by a few forward-thinking people to unite the police motorcycling community into a worldwide brotherhood. We have struck a working group to:

1) Determine the number of police motorcycle officers in North America, their location, and the type and duration (if any) of their basic and ongoing training.

2) Create scientifically supported and validated written and practical tests for police motorcycle training.

This undertaking has been endorsed by Attorney Gordon Graham, a 33 year veteran of California law enforcement and recognized leader in risk management. Graham is president of Lexipol – a company working to standardize law enforcement policy, procedures and training.

Graham spent his first ten years in law enforcement as a motorcycle officer and is uniquely qualified to speak on practices. A motorcycle program can provide a huge benefit to effective law enforcement operations in a given community, he says, if it adopts a “standardization of best practices” that can result in a substantial reduction in claims, settlements, verdicts and injuries.

“Proper management” includes a risk assessment on the need for a unit and proper selection of personnel, policy, equipment, maintenance, appropriate initial and ongoing training and performance and safety audits, Graham adds.

The WWAMO is asking motor officers to complete a survey available at http://wwamo.com/wwamo-survey/. Click on the link for your state/province and complete the short nine question survey.

The information will help define who we are and chart the future direction of police motorcycle training.

Please help improve the profession we all love and are blessed to be part of.

BIO

Andy Norrie is a Toronto Police Service inspector. Contact him at Andrew.Norrie@torontopolice.on.ca for more information.