It was a beautiful, sunny day in Medford, Oregon, as over 120 officers from around the Northwest were in town to sharpen their motorcycle riding skills.
Motorcycle police officers from three states and two Canadian provinces converged on Medford, Oregon, for the North American Motor Officers Association's
annual training conferences. The four-day event gives motorcycle officers a chance to hone their riding skills, to learn new riding techniques, and to demonstrate their riding proficiency. One-hundred and twenty officers from Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Alberta and British Columbia participated in this year’s event.
“With all of the other distractions a motorcycle officer has to deal with, riding needs to be second nature,” said Lt. Bob Hansen of the host Medford Police Dept. “This event gives them the opportunity to keep their skills sharp.”
Fifteen-hundred orange emergency cones were set up in carefully constructed patterns throughout the parking lot of the Jackson County Fairgrounds. The motorcycle police were tested on two different proficiency courses in addition to a slow course and a barrel race. Each proficiency course is divided into numerous patterns full of sharp 90-degree turns, 360s, and figure eights. The patterns are given names
like the Beehive, the Cajun Craze, and Pitchfork. Riders are penalized for touching or knocking cones over, touching a foot down, or blowing the pattern. A rider cannot be disqualified (it is, after all, a training exercise), but officers rode their hardest trying to complete each course in the fastest time with a ‘Best Rider’ trophy on the line. Sponsor-donated gift certificates only sweetened the pot, but bragging rights as the ‘Best Rider’ earned in head-to-head competition against peers was certainly the most coveted prize.
A couple of weeks before the event we had the opportunity to put our skills to the test alongside our local Medford Police Dept. motorcycle officers. They graciously allowed us to come out and practice on the actual proficiency courses on our own 2008 Honda ST1300 test bike from American Honda. As it turns out these courses are not as easy to navigate as they make it look.
Officers competed on different models, from BMW to Harley-Davidson with individual competitions, as well as events.
Armed with a Honda ST1300 test bike, Motorcycle USA's Editorial Director, Ken Hutchison, went into the practice session thinking he'd impress the constabulary with his own riding skills, but a strange thing happened along the way: He sucked, and we got it all on tape! Check out the Motorcycle Police Skills Competition Video
for proof that our illustrious leader could barely ride good enough to graduate from the basic rider-training course aptly named The Kindergarten. Then soak in the sights as Lt. Jason Becker shows us how to successfully navigate the legit courses on his police-issue ST1300.
Motorcycles were divided into six categories - BMW 1200, BMW 1150, Honda ST1100 & Honda ST1300 (same category), Harley-Davidson
Road King, Harley-Davidson Electra Glide, and Kawasaki
. The motorcycles must be police models outfitted for patrol duty. The nimbler BMWs and Hondas enjoyed a distinct advantage in the tightest patterns, while the Harley-Davidson’s filled the air with the sound of dragging floorboards. One sheriff from Pierce County, Washington, was riding an old Kawasaki Police 1000. The motorcycle, despite its age, had fresh paint and was in immaculate running order.
An Expert Course was the ultimate challenge. It started with riders ducking low as they rode under a bar as slow as possible because they had to grab a cup of water off a chair with their right hand before they were even clear of the bar overhead. The rest of the course was tight, technical track, requiring riders to go up and down curbs. Near the end of the run, motorcyclists had to demonstrate great balance as they rolled over a miniature see-saw, followed by a 90- degree turn that led into the tightest 360 I’ve seen.
The tests were challenging and claimed many victims over the course of the day.
A group of Washington County Sheriffs watched as the rider in front of them dropped his bike while attempting a difficult slow-speed maneuver. A collective groan spread through the crowd. That one pattern would claim several victims during the course of the day.
Clackamas County Sheriff Jodi Westerman was one of the few women competitors on hand. The Oregon sheriff got into the unit about eight years ago, and is one of only two women motorcycle officers that she knows of in the state.
“It’s a good course. Challenging, but if you catch it just right, you can hit it pretty fast,” Westerman said.
She competes on a BMW 1200 and says she feels great being one of the few female representatives in the motorcycle police division.
The hard parts were dragging all day long, but the H-D-mounted officers definitely dealt with the least cornering clearance. Still, we never believed a Hog could move like ones we saw at the NAMOA event.
“You do get a lot of attention,” she said with a smile.
The North American Motor Officers Association is a non-profit organization that was organized in Portland, Oregon, in 1984. It currently has 400 members from around the Northwest. Since its inception, it has offered yearly training opportunities to the police motorcycle community that includes the annual international training symposium.
A long list of sponsors helped make this year’s event possible. The Medford Police Dept. had been planning and organizing the event for the last year, said Lt. Hansen. The Motorcycle Superstore
sponsored lunch for 200 riders and volunteers on Saturday, and provided three-$100 Gift Cards for prizes at the Awards Banquet Saturday night. The gift cards were handed out as part of a drawing during the banquet.