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This summer, the Idaho Falls Police Department has launched a new pilot program for motorcycle officers. Two officers who are part of the Traffic Unit have swapped their patrol vehicles for motorcycles.
Idaho Falls roadways are traveled daily by thousands of vehicles, both from our city and from the surrounding areas who gather here for employment, shopping, entertainment, and other day-to-day activities. Especially during the warmer months, busy roadways necessitate traffic enforcement to curb speeding, distracted driving, aggressive driving, and other safety concerns. Summer is also when IFPD and Idaho Falls Police Dispatch receive the most traffic complaints.
The Idaho Falls Police Department has a designated Traffic Unit, made up of a group of officers whose primary responsibility is traffic enforcement on Idaho Falls roadways. The Traffic Unit has existed previously in IFPD history but was recently reintroduced. Traffic Unit officers are able to dedicate time to addressing problem areas and proactive traffic and safety enforcement, rather than just between or on their way to or from dispatched calls for service. While all officers can and will enforce traffic laws as they see violations, having this Traffic Unit in place gives other Patrol officers more time to focus on calls for service and other duties.
Having motorcycle officers in the Traffic Unit offers the department one more tool to enforce traffic laws and promote safety on Idaho Falls roads. Cities of similar size who utilize motorcycle officers have shown that motorcycle officers can have a positive impact on those efforts. The pilot program will help IFPD to determine if this is something that will work well for Idaho Falls, and hopes are very high that it will.
Police motorcycles are smaller than traditional patrol vehicles and may be harder for a person committing a traffic violation to spot. While “Gotcha” enforcement is not the goal, in areas such as school or park zones and neighborhoods, successfully identifying and warning or ticketing reckless drivers or speeders can help to keep those areas safe.
Motorcycles can also be easier to navigate through congested and high traffic areas. When an officer is trying to respond to a car accident or another incident on the other side of a congested roadway, a motorcycle may be able to maneuver through smaller openings where a larger vehicle may get stuck in traffic.
This can be helpful for both traffic enforcement and responding to other calls. For example, after the fireworks at Snake River Landing on the 4th of July, officers responded to an incident where a man was acting aggressively towards other pedestrians on the roadside. The first officer on scene was a motorcycle officer who was able to navigate quickly through the congestion on the roadways.
The motorcycles themselves are 2006 and 2008 Honda ST 1300s, which are special police package motorcycles, and were previously used by another police agency. Each was outfitted with decals and logos that clearly identify them as Idaho Falls Police Department vehicles, as well as equipment. Each bike has lights and sirens, a laptop for the officer to look up information and submit reports, and even a printer for tickets and accident reports typically available from an officer in a patrol car.
Just like civilian motorcyclists, officers are required to complete specialized training in order to operate the motorcycles. In order to become motorcycle officers, each officer completed an intensive two week long Idaho POST Motor Officer School. The officers have each been members of the Patrol Bureau and Traffic Unit previously in standard patrol vehicles.
Officers are also taking safety measures to protect themselves while on the roadways. Officers wear boots, pants, jackets, and gloves designed for riding. The jackets are high visibility yellow and black, and there are reflective elements throughout the clothing. Officers also wear helmets with integrated speakers and a mic that allow officers to speak with dispatch while keeping both hands on the handlebars and their focus on driving.
Officers began testing the motorcycles in late May and June as weather allowed. Community members may have already seen the motorcycles making traffic stops, responding to accidents, and at the Independence Day Parade (pictured on right). Officers have now fully up-fitted each bike and are on duty during periods of the day and week with high traffic throughout the city.