CrimeWatch: APD Motorcycle Training - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

CrimeWatch: APD Motorcycle Training

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Police officers on motorcycles face more danger than officers in cars.

Maneuvering 900 pounds on two wheels around little orange cones is harder than it looks.

It takes lots of practice.

The sound of metal scraping concrete is actually a good thing. It means the engine guards are working -- scratching them instead of the motorcycle.

This group of officers is the latest to join the Motors Unit -- but they aren't rookies.One of several requirements to be a part of the unit is two years with the Austin Police Department. They also have to go through a rider evaluation. Even their work ethic is reviewed.

"It's very hard," said Officer Will Norrell with APD's Motor Unit. "It's one of the more challenging schools we've been through."

Common mistakes, like not leaning into the bike properly, straightening out at the curve, breaking too hard or stopping too late are all skills officers must master in this motors school.

"We don't just put anybody through it and expect them to be assigned to motors," said Tim Hargrove with APD's Motors Unit. "We have to make sure they can do what needs to be done on the motorcycles that we do ride."

These practice scenarios mimic real life scenarios when APD motorcycle officers work traffic and look for violations.

"It's pretty intense, you never know what the person next to you is going to do or if they see you, if they care," Norrell said.

The most dangerous part of the job is providing escort -- making sure routes are clear and secure for presidential motorcades or funerals. But the wreck that Sgt. Gary Zumwalt says probably should have killed him wasn't an escort. It happened in September 2009 when a car theft suspect ran into him.

"As I stopped on the hill with very limited sight distance, the suspect was coming across directly at me and we hit head on," Sgt. Zumwalt said. "I went up and over everything, and landed and broke my femur and was out for quite a while."

Wrecks are common for motorcycle officers. It is not only more dangerous for motorcycle cops but those who ride bikes in general. Another example, Cedar Park officer Leonard Reed died in August during a motorcycle training exercise.

"Officer Reed's accident is an extremely horrible, unfortunate accident," said Sgt. Zumwalt.

The unit holds a motorcycle school every time Motors officers are needed. Making sure they learn to ride on instinct and these skills become second nature.

APD currently has 46 motorcycle officers.

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