By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The parking lot at Veterans Park was full of the sound of Harley-Davidson engines being gunned and the occasional scraping of metal on asphalt as Tupelo Police officers trained to qualify as motorcycle officers.
Lt. Tim Clouse of the Tupelo Police Department this week is training motorcycle police from DeSoto County, Pineville, La., and Rapides Parish, La., to be certified instructors.
In addition to training instructors, six officers will be working to receive the motorcycle officer certifications.
“Having motorcycle officers helps us get through traffic a lot easier, being a small vehicle,” Clouse said. “It gives us an advantage in funerals and dignitary escorts. Also it gives us an advantage for traffic enforcement. You can pull over on the side of the road, not take up as much property and still slow traffic down.”
The Harley-Davidson motorcycles used by police weigh between 700 and 1,000 pounds. The officers are expected to weave them through a line of cones, weave between offset gates and make several 180-degree turns in an intersection before making a figure eight inside a 30-foot cone circle, all without putting their foot down or stopping the bike.
The officers also must show they can easily manipulate the motorcycle and pick it up if it falls.
Clouse said the motorcycles operate at about one-fourth of the cost of a patrol car.
With possibly six more certified motorcycle officers after this week, Chief Tony Carleton said the department will have more diversity in who can work in each unit.
Clouse said they also hope to add an officer to their motorcycle unit in the future.
The unit currently has three full-time motorcycle officers who patrol during the day and two part-time motorcycle officers who work traffic downtown Tupelo.
“Adding extra guys will hopefully bring down the accident rate,” Clouse said. “The more people you have enforcing the laws, the less of that particular crime you have going on.”
The officers going through the course were required to go into the course as above-average riders with a valid motorcycle endorsement.
Tupelo Police officers working to get the motorcycle officer certification are Ray Sockwell Jr., Daniel McKinney, Jeff Griffen, James Bond, Jeremy Sapp and Brett Moyer.
Officers receiving their instructor certification are Alan Chavers and Phillip Sanderson.