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Military and Police Motorcycles

Paladin Publishing published our book, Police and Military Motorcycles, in May 2001.  In researching this book, I found many interesting motorcycle photographs showing motorcycles in both military and police applications.  I only photographed a few of the images on this page; most were provided either by the manufacturers, police agencies, motor officers, or other collectors.

Is this cool, or what?  Wow....six years in the making, a very patient publisher, and the result is a dream come true....The Complete Book of Police and Military Motorcycles, available from Paladin Press.   The photographs in this book are fabulous, including many from police department archives around the world, BMW in Germany, Kawasaki in the United States, and more than a few that I grabbed with my Nikon in the U.S., China, and other countries.  Hey, I've thought about this a lot, and I've decided you should buy this book!

Quite a photo, don't you think?  It shows Captain Ralph F. Dowgin, a New Jersey State Police Trooper, in 1936 on Route 36 in Keyport, New Jersey.   Captain Dowgin went on to become Troop Commander of Troop D (which patrols the New Jersey Turnpike), and he retired in 1963.  Captain Dowgin rode a Harley-Davidson, and when I was a kid, I actually met him.   He lived near us and he was a friend of the family. 

Back in the old days, the New Jersey State Police rode their motorcycles year round.  The fierce snowstorms typical of New Jersey winters didn't stop these guys - the New Jersey State Police put chains on their Harleys and continued to patrol.  The New Jersey State Police have a fascinating history.  This department set the tone for many of the state police agencies in the United States, maintaining a strict military bearing and professional approach from the outset of the organization's formation.  Colonel Schwarzkopf, the first New Jersey State Police Superintendent, founded the New Jersey State Police Academy in Sea Girt, New Jersey.  The New Jersey State Police training was based on that presented by the United States Military Academy at West Point (where Colonel Schwarzkopf had been previously assigned).   Colonel Schwarzkopf modeled the NJSP police uniform on the U.S. Army uniform, and was also a  key figure in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.  If his name sounds familiar, it is because General Norman Schwarzkopf, hero of the Gulf War, is his son.

Mike Beltranena (Police Director, New Brunswick Police Department) provided this photograph from the New Brunswick Police Department archives.  Mike and I went to high school together, and we have stayed in touch through the wonders of the Internet.   The above photo became the cover of The Complete Book of Police and Military Motorcycles (as shown on the right), and it looks great!

Here's a blurb from the publisher:
The Complete Book of Police and Military Motorcycles

From Pittsburgh's adoption of motorcycles for police use in 1909 to Gen. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing's 1916 pursuit of Pancho Villa into Mexican territory on Harley-Davidsons, Indians and Excelsiors to the deployment of motorcycles in both world wars, this book tells the fascinating tale of these machines from their 20th century beginnings to their current use by police departments and militaries throughout the world. Joseph Berk, author of The Gatling Gun, explores every aspect of police and military motorcycles, including the history of their manufacture by Harley-Davidson, Indian, Kawasaki, BMW, Honda and others; details of their procurement by selected U.S. police departments; critiques of the "Big Three" police models employed in the United States from officers who have put them to the test; a detailed outline of the intensive 10-day training program required of U.S. motor officers; an inside look at how specific police departments from Atlanta to L.A. utilize motorcycles on a day-to-day basis; and a look at the specific makes and models used by Special Forces and other military units from World War I through the turn of the century and beyond.

The author is a motorcycle enthusiast who has owned and ridden Harley-Davidsons for many years. An engineer with roughly 25 years in the defense industry, he also enjoys photography and writing and has published short stories in EasyRiders, Iron Horse, and Motorcycle Classics magazines.

Whoa, what's this?  The latest urban assault motor?  

Check out the new Military and Police series from CSC Motorcycles.   

These 150cc puppies are perfect around town.  They are lightweight, they'll do over 60 miles per hour, and they get close to 100 miles per gallon!  Everybody loves them.  At just under $5,000, these bikes are made in the United States and they may be exactly what your department needs to get expenses down and community relations up.

Want more information?  Just call the California Scooter Company at 800 884 4173 and ask for TK, CSC's M&P specialist.

Or, you can check out the CSC press release on this motorcycle.

 

Take a look at CSC's military bikes in the YouTube video below, too.  It's cool!   

Okay, on to more police motorcycles and more good stuff!  Check out these two guys and what they did almost a century ago...folks, you couldn't make a movie this exciting!

Motor officers have always been heroes, but did you know the tradition of service and extraordinary heroism goes back nearly 100 years?  Did you know that two motor officers became known as the Paul Reveres of Santa Paula based on their heroic midnight ride? 

The monument above (The Warning, sculpted by Eric Richards) was erected in 2003 in Santa Paula, California, to mark a heroic evening in 1928.  Motor Officers Thornton Edwards (on the Indian) and Stanley Baker (on the Harley) were on duty the evening of March 12, 1928, when California experienced what remains the second worst disaster in the state’s history.  The recently completed St. Francis Dam, 36 miles upstream in Santa Clarita, collapsed shortly after midnight.   The collapse released 52 billion gallons of water, and that water was headed directly toward Santa Paula.  The Santa Paula Police Department learned of the impending danger shortly after the dam broke.  Thornton and Baker spent the next 3 hours riding their motorcycles throughout Santa Paula, notifying residents and evacuating the town.  Thornton actually worked for the State Highway Department, which became the California Highway Patrol.  Baker was a Santa Paula Police Department Officer.  Although the records from this era are sketchy, legend holds that Thornton’s bike had to be repaired during his midnight ride when it ingested water.  As a result of these two officers’ actions, the residents of Santa Paula were successfully evacuated, and few Santa Paula residents died that night. 

The water released by the dam (the reservoir had just filled, and the poorly-designed dam was not strong enough to contain it) mixed with mud and debris to form a wall of slurry that advanced 54 miles to the ocean at about 12 miles per hour.  The disaster killed an estimated 470 people, and to this day, it is still the second worst disaster in California history.  Only the San Francisco earthquake and its resulting fires resulted in more death.  The Warning contains no mention of either motor officer’s name; rather, it is intended to honor all acts of heroism, and to honor those killed during the St. Francis Dam collapse.  If you head through downtown Santa Paula, The Warning is hard to miss, and it’s worth a trip to this beautiful town just to see it.

(Special thanks for the above research to Peggy Kelly, a reporter for the Santa Paula Times.)

Another great shot of a couple of motor officers on Harley Electra-Glides in San Fernando, California.  This is a four-page spread I did for the January 2010 issue of Rider magazine.   Writing the article was a hoot, but the real fun was reading the letters to the editor in the next edition.  The motor officers loved it!   Here are a few excerpts:
Well done, for the best article I've read in quite a while.

Great piece about the people and the bikes that protect and serve us.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the article "Motors: The best job on the force" in your January issue.  Finally, someone puts it in writing. ...  The article was right on, even down to the very last sentence.

I was a motor officer for 25 years and enjoyed every second.  Yes, we write tickets, but we do so much more.  The motor can get to places faster than any four-wheeler.  Thanks for making a mature (old) motor cop happy.

BMWs, BMW Clones, and German Military and Police Motorcycles

Here's a World War II German 350 DKW motorcycle.  The Wehrmacht used these two-stroke 350 cc motorcycles for dispatch duty.

I grabbed this photo at the World War II Museum in New Orleans.

World War II Wehrmacht Motorcycles.  This is a BMW with a sidecar.

This picture came from HP-Hommes in Germany.

This picture came from the Ural brochure.

One of the more interesting military motorcycle applications occurred in the German Wehrmacht during World War II.  In most other military motorcycle applications, the motorcycle has been used primarily as an escort or messenger vehicle.  The Germans actually used motorcycles as infantry weapons.  Each motorcycle in a German motorcycle battalion (that's right, the Germans organized motorcycle units up to the battalion level!) carried three soldiers:  A driver, a rifleman on the back seat, and a machine gunner in the sidecar.  The Germans used these motorcycle units when they invaded Russia.  By the time the Russian winter rolled around, they figured out this was not such a bright idea.  

How about the picture on the right?  More Nazis?

Nope, not quite. 

The Russians, realizing a war was coming in the late 1930s, purchased a handful of BMWs from a dealer in Sweden and secretly reverse-engineered the German machines in Moscow.  The Russians actually fielded a copy of the BMW military motorcycle during World War II, so troops in Russia on both sides of the front lines were fighting atop essentially the same motorcycle.  After the war, the Russians continued to build these machines.  The Russians shifted production to the Ural mountains, and the Russian BMW copies became known as "Urals."  (Hey, I couldn't make this stuff up!)  The Russians continued to improve the machines, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the motorcycles were offered for sale to the public.  Prior to that time, Russia sold Urals to eastern European and other third world communist nations.  You can actually buy these machines today in the United States, without the machine gun, and own a brand new World War II-era motorcycle.  The Russians also make a civilian version. The civilian versions are available with whitewall tires and with or without the sidecar.

Ural is not hesitant about showing their motorcycles in extreme applications.  This is another photo from the Ural brochure.  They also show motorcycles with rocket launchers, grenade launchers, and the 7.62mm PK machine gun.  Just the thing for LA traffic! A LongTech-mounted police officer in rural China.  I grabbed this shot in 2001.  Note the OHV BMW-clone engine.  China has three or four companies making clones of the older BMW-boxer engine bikes, including some with early-1930s-design flathead engines!

This is the BMW R1100 RT-P, on duty at night somewhere in Germany.  The German police BMWs are green and white. The factory provides the bikes in a range of standard colors, and for an additional $400 per motorcycle they will paint the motorcycle any color already in the BMW system (for either their cars or motorcycles).  Based on the research I did for Military and Police Motorcycles, I believed the BMW R1100 RT-P to be the most advanced police motorcycle in the world at the time it was introduced.  It has a range of officer comfort features, a torquey 1100 cc twin cylinder engine, and unlike all other manufacturers' police motorcycles, an antiskid braking system.  Every motor officer I interviewed for Military and Police Motorcycles spoke highly of this machine.   The R1100 RT-P, in black and white, is now used by the California Highway Patrol and many other U.S. police departments.  If Harley-Davidson isn't nervous, they should be.  This is a wonderful police motorcycle. The photograph on the left came to me courtesy of Willi Nagel at BMW in Germany.

The photo above shows the  BMW R1100 RT-P, but this time in the CHP colors.  I photographed this motorcycle with the N70 and the 24-120 Nikon lens while visiting CHP headquarters in Sacramento, California.

BMW upgraded this to the R1150RT-P (with the 1150cc engine), and then the R1200RT-P (with the 1200cc hex head engine).

It's not too hard to guess who these French motor officers are escorting.   This photograph, which came from BMW in Germany, shows the Pope in France a few years ago, with a group of previous-generation BMW police twins for an escort.  BMW is the dominant police motorcycle in Europe and many other parts of the world. A couple of CHP officers checking out the classic bikes at the 2004 Hansen Dam Norton Rally.  Note that the lead bike has LED strobe lights, while the trail bike is equipped with conventional police lighting.  These are BMW R1150RT-P motorcycles.

My friend Ben sent this photo to me from Paris, France.  This is a vintage photo showing the Gendarmerie from the presidential escort group.  

Wow.

This is Ben's personal bike, a former French police BMW.  It's a 1977 R60/7, in a configuration never made available to civilians.  

The French police ordered these with a 600cc engine, the RS fairing, spoked wheels, and leather saddlebags.  

These were the first bikes the French police ordered in blue; before that they were all black.   This is pretty cool stuff. 

 

Here's another period photo from Ben, showing the Swedish police.  Nothing slowed these guys down...check out this ski-equipped BMW!
An K1100LT BMW formerly in service with Belgium's federal police.  Ruud Willems sent this photo to me.

BMW no longer makes these motorcycles.  Their early K-bikes used 3 or 4 cylinder engines (this is a 4 cylinder) that were oriented in an unusual manner.  The crankshaft was parallel to the frame, and the engine was oriented with the pistons moving in a horizontal plane (the engine laid on its side).  The cylinder was on the bike's left side.  BMW tried to enter the US market with these motorcycles, but they made little progress until they offered the 1100cc boxer twin.

Another cool photo from Ruud, this time showing an 1100cc BMW boxer twin formerly in service with the Belgian federal police.
A cool photo from Ian showing police BMWs in Birmingham, England.
A pair of La Verne, California's finest...on their BMW R1200RT-P police motorcycles in 2009.

This is the latest edition of the BMW police motorcycle.

An F650 BMW police bike with ABS in service with Egg Harbor Township in New Jersey.  The Egg Harbor PD likes this bike's ability to go off road.  They also use the larger R1200RT-P BMW, which you can see in the background.
One of Egg Harbor's Motor Officers on the F650 BMW providing an escort to the Police Unity Tour.

Here's a great photo from my CBX friend Ian Foster of Hong Kong showing two BMW R1100RT-Ps and two Honda VFRs in Hong Kong.  How about that...Honda VFRs as police bikes!  And, a special hello to the CBX750P club members in Hong Kong from your friends here in the United States!

A Hong Kong BMW in Causeway Bay, sent to us by Ian.

When police BMWs are retired from service, they are picked up by civilian motorcyclists.  Although the bikes may have a few miles on them, they have usually been  meticulously maintained, and they can continue to be reliable machines for years and years.  

Converting a police BMW to civilian use is straightforward.  The blue and red strobe lights, the police radio, and the insignia come off, and it's ready to go.  Most civilian riders also remove the R1150RT-P's extra battery to save weight.

This is a photo of my good friend Bob staying two steps ahead of Hurricane Norbert in Baja, Mexico, on his civilianized R1150RT-P.

A cool shot of a 1200 cc BMW police bike in the Netherlands from my friend Danny Hoek.
Danny also sent this shot, along with detail photos below of the Netherlands-based BMW police bikes.
An 800cc twin BMW police bike in the Netherlands from Danny Hoek.
And Danny's shot of the BMW R1200RT-P police bike in the Netherlands.
Kawasaki Police Motorcycles
At the time I wrote the Complete Book of Police and Military Motorcycles, Kawasaki was a dominant police motorcycle in the United States and in many other countries.  Kawasaki's Police 1000 has been on the scene in the United States since shortly after Kawasaki introduced its ultra-performance KZ-900 in 1973.  Kawasaki used to be the dominant U.S. police motorcycle west of the Mississippi, while Harley-Davidson was the dominant machine east of the Mississippi.  BMW came on strong in both areas.  The Kawasaki police motorcycle cost about $8,500 new, but it had a  very low resale value.  The Harley-Davidson police motorcycle used to cost about $11,500 to $14,000 new (when I wrote the book), but the Harleys sell for more used than they cost new.  The BMW police motorcycle costs about $18,000 new, and it also has strong resale value.  One motor officer laughed when I asked him about the much higher cost of the BMW.  He said he could generate $18,000 in a week by writing traffic tickets!  Having collected a few of those tickets myself, I know what that guy was talking about!

These typical Kawasaki Police 1000s were in service with the Atlanta Police Department when I wrote the book.  The Atlanta PD was very helpful.  An Atlanta police officer attempting to make the Special Operations team.  As is the case in many large metropolitan police departments, the motor officers are part of the Special Operations group.  Becoming a motor officer is an elite assignment.

 

A Kawasaki-mounted officer in Prescott, Arizona.

Here's a very cool, fully restored 1980 Kawasaki Z1000 C3 with 23'000 original miles.  Darren Buckley took 4 years to restore this motorcycle.  The engine's never been turned over since the restoration; the motorcycle is for display only.   Darren purchased the the bike from California in 2002.  

Darren's from New Zealand, and he sent this photo to me to share with you.

Thanks, Darren, and job well done!

Check this motor out...a Kawasaki sports bike pressed into police service in Northern Ireland!
The Kawasaki with a BMW police bike.
We received this very nice photo and press release from the Newport News Police Department showing MPO Hale and her awesome Kawasaki Concours 1400 police motorcycle.  This is the very first photo we've received of this awesome new police motor...thanks very much, Officer Hale!

NEWPORT NEWS POLICE DEPARTMENT

Newport News is a sixty-nine square mile city with a population of approximately 185,000 residents and is located in Southeast Virginia.  The Newport News Police Department has 440 sworn officers and 153 civilian employees. The Department is the fourth largest municipal police department in the state of Virginia and has been a nationally accredited law enforcement agency since 1986.

The Newport News Police Department has utilized motorcycle officers since 1910. Currently the motorcycle officers are assigned to the Special Operations Division.  The unit’s responsibilities include enforcing traffic laws, escorts including Presidential and other dignitary motorcades and other special events. 

Master Police Officer Sonia Hale has been with the department since January of 1990 and has been a motorcycle officer for eight years. During her time as a motorcycle officer, she has ridden four different types of police motorcycles. Currently, MPO Hale rides a 2011 Kawasaki Concours 1400.  Kawasaki has incorporated many different features that provide additional safety for the officers. MPO Hale looks forward to riding this bike for many years to come.

The good folks at the Newport News PD were kind enough to send along this dynamite 1911 photo showing their officers with bicycle and a very, very cool Indian police bike...check this out!  Wow!

Harley-Davidson Police Motorcycles

This photograph came from the American Motorcycle Association Historical Museum.

This photograph came from the American Motorcycle Association Historical Museum.

This is the motorcycle the U.S. Army went to war on during World War II.  It is a 750cc flathead v-twin, affectionately known as the "45."  Harley made tens of thousands of these machines during the war, but unlike Indian, Harley continued to make civilian machines.  It kept them alive after the war, unlike Indian.  When the was ended, Harley had kept its civilian dealer network and customer base intact.  Indian did not, and Indian had a tough go of it after the war.  Indian finally went under.  Indian built their military motorcycles to Army specifications.  Harley told the Army their bike was a 750cc (the "45"), and if the Army wanted Harleys, that's what they had to buy.  The Army knuckled under. I was about as died-in-the-wool a Harley-Davidson fan as you will ever find, but I have to tell you that our military engineers and planners were so impressed with the German BMW military motorcycle that they asked both Harley-Davidson and Indian to reverse engineer the BMW powertrain and incorporate it into a U.S. military machine.  Everybody was copying BMW.  The Harley Davidson version became known as the XA-750.  Note its horizontally-opposed cylinders.  Harley built about a thousand of these machines, none of which ever saw military service.  By the time this motorcycle came on the scene, the U.S. Army had already fallen in love with the Jeep.
Here's a restored Harley WLA, the famous "45" military bike.  I grabbed this shot at the Hansen Dam Rally in 2007.

It's really cool, isn't it?

In 1998 I stayed at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C. while testifying as an expert witness in an Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals trial.  This is the same hotel in which Vernon Jordan used to meet Monica Lewinsky for breakfast when he wasn't trying to help her get a job as a political payoff for not going away when she wasn't having an affair with Bill Clinton.  We actually saw Vernon Jordan in the hotel restaurant for breakfast one morning while I was there, although Monica wasn't around.  When I checked in, it was already starting to get dark out, but I noticed these sidecar-mounted motor officers with U.S. Park Police Harley-Davidsons in front of the ANA Hotel across the street.  It was during the middle of the winter and it was cold.  I spoke to the motor officers and asked if they rode all year.  They said they did, and in the winter months, they attached the sidecars to allow them to ride on icy roads.   Wow.  Talk about hard core riding conditions.  These officers provided VIP escorts regardless of the weather.  I asked the officers who they were escorting, and much to my surprise, they told me it was Yasir Arafat. I was able to get fairly close to ol' Yasir's limo with my trusty N70 and the 24-120 Nikon lens.  Talk about lucky breaks!  You can just make out Arafat's trademark black-and-white checkerboard kefiyah in the right rear seat of the Cadillac.  

Here's a larger section from the above photograph, showing the classic kefiyah Arafat always wore.

Yessir, that actually is Yasir!

Sergeant Bob Sabantino on his Police Harley-Davidson Dyna Defender, photographed by Mike Beltranena, at the Mid-Atlantic Police Motorcycle Rodeo in Fairfax, Virginia, in September 2000.   A hundred thousand dollars worth of Police Harleys from an unidentified Virginia department, though the lens of Mike Beltranena's Minolta SRT 200.   Mike shot this photograph at the Police Motorcycle Rodeo in Fairfax.
Wow, take a look at this vintage photo showing a motor officer from Ecuador on a Harley-Davidson!  This is Guayasense, a motorcyclist and Lord of the Transit Commission of Guayas Province in Ecuador, and the photo was probably taken in the 1940s or 1950s.  What a title!

This photo is one of several sent to us by Captain Jose Paredes, who heads Ecuador's presidential motorcycle escort unit.   You can see more great photos from Captain Paredes by clicking here!

Another cool shot from my friend AJHC showing himself and friend on a couple of Royal Canadian Mounted Police Harleys in Edmonton, Canada, in the 1950s.
A very cool classic shot from our friend Juan Giménez, the police Sub Commissioner in Montevideo, Uruguay.   Juan, this is a great photo and we're glad you sent it to us. 
Check out this photo from Al Donovan....he's the motor officer on the bike in this photo, and here's what he had to say about his days as a Clearwater PD motor officer...
Al Donovan on his 1950 Harley 61 ci. It would run 93mph with a tail wind. But with big a big sprocket it was good for a drag which made it practical for city work.  The radio had tubes and we had to keep the transceiver shut off as the battery wouldn’t hold up. To send a message we had to stop and turn it on. The siren was run by friction off the front wheel so it was useless if you slowed way down and stopped. One of my favourite non-approved things to do was to go downtown at late night and rev the engine in a low gear and retard the spark and cut the throttle and enjoy hearing the great loud backfires reverberate off the building walls of the empty businesses. The steering head had damper which was manually tightened or loosened to help control handling. All bikers learned early to retard that spark when kick starting the bike or else it could throw you up and off. My regular police cap was without the wire shape stiffener as with it in the thing would blow off even at slow speeds. So when we ran down the highway it looked really silly as it billowed up like a large blue chef’s cap. My regular beat was Clearwater Beach and the causeway over to the island. We worked 6 days a week back then and the key word was we worked a minimum of 48 hours week. If your day off came on a holiday you just lost it, there was no such thing as overtime. Our starting pay was $150 a month but after a year it rose magnificently to $175. We were allowed to park the bike when it rained or if the temperature got below 32f. That only happened once. I remember one cold day riding by the beach on New Years day and looking at all the Yankee tourists swimming in the water while I had on every bit of clothing I could get on and freezing to death. Ah! The good old days!

Thanks very much, Al!

And take a look at this one!  How about 1924!  Yep, this photo was shot in Lompoc, California, showing their motor officer detachment.   It came to us from James in Santa Barbara.   Thanks, James!
Mike Beltranena, my good friend and former Police Director, New Brunswick Police Department, next to a custom 350 cubic inch Chevy-powered motorcycle.   This is not a police motorcycle!
Harley is pushing their Sportster as a police motorcycle again.

When I was in the Army in the 1970s, I saw old iron-head Sportsters used as police motors by the MPs at Fort Bliss, Texas.

One of the folks who visited this website sent the photo and message below.

I received this photo from John Peehl, a former MP at my old stomping grounds (Fort Bliss, Texas).  Here's what John sent to me...
I thought you might like this picture of me taken in 1969.  I was there from late 68 thru early 1970. We had 5 motors, when I was there. We were one of three bases in the United States with motors. We had Harley Sportsters 900s. We were an unorthodox squad in the uniforms we wore. When I first got there we wore army greens in the winter. That was cold on a bike. Than the post general allowed us to wear air force flight jackets and army green pants pegged Than instead of combat boots, we first had black high boots made in Juarez but they fell apart. So each of the motors went on an AWOL collection trip to pay for highway patrol boots. In the summer we wore tw's or tropical wear like in the picture I sent you. We were the chase vehicles for the radar van and we did traffic control for the tank convoys going out into the desert. That is when we rode with the El Paso motors.  They rode 74's. We also rode escort for army vehicles going to El Paso when President Johnson gave back some land to Mexico when the Rio Grande shifted.  It was great duty.  I was back to Fort Bliss last year to see if they had the bikes in the museum.  I was told they were moved to the MP museum in Fort Leonard Wood, MO Jim Rogers is the curator at the museum. If I can answer any questions please let me know. 

Former Sgt - E5 John Peehl or Motor 68.

Much to my surprise, the traffic cops in Guadalajara are now using Harley-Davidson Sportsters.  This fellow graciously consented to having his picture taken.  He turned on his flashing strobe lights for me to add a bit of zip to the photo.
Two motor cops in Guadalajara back in the early 1990s.  I had ridden from Los Angeles to Guadalajara on my 1992 Heritage Softail when I grabbed this shot, and I was curious to learn if the police officer liked his Harley. 

I asked the motor officer on the Harley how he liked his motorcycle. He shrugged his shoulders, uttered an expletive, and then added "but it runs…"

The other motor officer is on a Honda CBX 750-P police bike.  Honda never sold that model in the U.S., but it looked like it makes a lot of sense as a police motorcycle.

This is the control mechanism for Harley's police motorcycle ABS unit.   It looked to me like it takes up a lot of space in the right rear saddlebag area.   I asked the Harley factory rep about the weight and he told me that it only added a couple of pounds to the bike.   

Maybe it's made of helium...

One of our Swedish viewers sent these photos in from a museum in Belgium.   This is an old Harley panhead.  These were called panheads because of the valve cover shape. 

Here's an input from another viewer in Belgium....

Hallo,

I dear te say the photos from "One of our viewers" who claims: "from a museum in Sweden" ar the motorcycles comming from the Belgium "Gendarmerie" or "Rijkswacht" (French & Flemisch).

Later came the BMW 900 and K100 + 1100RT en TL and the R1000. Now we drive on the Yamaha FJR 1300 under the new flag "Federal Police".

Ruud.

Here's another Harley from that same museum.  This one is a shovelhead.

Hey, check out this nice note I received from Danny Hoek in the Netherlands...

Hi, I thought you might like these pictures. I'm from the Netherlands and this is my 2003 HD FLHTPi (with me on it) which i imported from the States.   It had done service(so i was told) in Mayfield Township, Michigan.  I restored it with the strobe-box and par 36's and of course a Whelen wail-yelp siren.   

I also added some photo's of police bikes in the Netherlands. The officers wore white/orange jackets but a couple of years ago they changed that to Fluorescent Yellow. They are all BMW's.  In 2010 BMW and the Dutch police force signed a contract for another 1,000 new BMW R1200 RTP's and X650 GS's.  The Dutch officer on the Harley, though, is a PR-stunt or a privately owned vehicle I assume.

Regards,

 

Danny Hoek,

The Netherlands 

Here's another one of Danny's HD photos!
Honda Police Motorcycles

This photograph came from the American Motorcycle Association Historical Museum.

Until recently, Honda has never had a significant presence as a police motorcycle supplier here in the United States, but that hasn't occurred for a lack of trying.  One of Honda's earliest "big bore" imports to the United States was its CB 450.  The bike was technologically advanced, but it didn't attain the sales success Honda expected.  Before the company regrouped to introduce the wildly-successfully benchmark CB750 in 1969, Honda actually modified 25 CB 450s for police duty and imported them into this country.  They didn't catch on. Honda's ST1100 Police Motorcycle.  This bike uses a V-4 engine, with the crankshaft in line with the motorcycle.  Honda also offers their ST1300 in police configuration, but it was not on display at the 2004 IACP convention.
Check out Greg Holliday's fully-restored 1969 CB750 Honda.  This is an amazing machine.  It is the first year of the CB750 Honda.  Greg sent this photo to me from England.
Another interesting Honda 450-based police motorcycle.  Ian provided this shot of a late-1960s Dubai police motorcycle, on display in London in 2006.
Here's an award-winning, concours-condition Honda 450 police motorcycle, the 1969 Honda K1 CB450P.   Charlie O'Hanlon completely restored this motorcycle.

That's my friend (and the bike's owner) Toastacia, talking to Richard Backus, editor-in-chief of Motorcycle Classics magazine, at the Legends of the Motorcycle Show in 2007. 

Toast's motorcycle won 1st place in the Japanese Production (1957 to 1969) category, and the competition was tough! 

Karen Krenis grabbed these awesome photos, with the Pacific Ocean in the background.

Another shot of Toastacia's CB450P.  It just doesn't get much better than this.  What an awesome motorcycle!

Check out that 1969 Honda CB750 Four in the background, too.

This photo is also by Karen Krenis.

Check out this shot of the mechanical siren drive.  The motor officers on these machines used a lever on the left side to press a friction drive against the rear tire.   Karen Krenis photo.
And here's a shot of the speedometer on Toastacia's CB450P, showing the button that held the needle in the "tell tale" position.  Karen Krenis photo.

Here's another great shot from my friend Ian...four Hong Kong Honda VFR police bikes.  Don't they look great?

This is another photo sent in to us from a reader in Sweden.  This is the Honda 750 CBX-P police motorcycle.

Here are another couple of photos from Ian.  The one on the left shows two Honda CBX 750-Ps in Dalian.  The other is a great shot of a motor officer in Hong Kong on a Honda VFR.  The fluorescent green on his vest makes a lot of sense.  I have a jacket in that color, and it is quite visible.   I'm not too sure about his bare hands, though...that would not be a good situation in a fall.

A photo from Ian when he was riding with the CBX750P club in Hong Kong.

Another one form the CBX750P club in Hong Kong, courtesy of Ian.  "HQ Escort" means these bikes are no longer in government service.  It's similar to what riders in the US do when their former police bikes say "Traffic" instead of "Police."
A Honda CB250 in police service in Macau from Ian.

Ian sent a couple of great shots of smaller Hondas, too, both from Hong Kong.  These are 250cc bikes.  The yellow one belongs to the airport police.  Smaller bikes like these can make a lot of sense for police duty.  
Here's a motor officer in the UK on a Honda Transalp modified for police duty.

And how about this...check out the email we received from our new friend Sam in Ireland...

Hi There.

Just looking through your pictures and I came across the Honda Transalp in Police Livery in Northern Ireland on the Friday of the North West 200 motorcycle road races, just a wee note to let you know it is me, Constable Sam Picken of the PSNI on the bike. I see you have an interest in handguns as well.  For your info we carry as standard a Glock 17, 9mm with 17-round mags. Good pics, keep up the good work.

Sam

Here's something you don't see every day...a CB-350-based Honda police bike.   This photo came from my Eamonn Newton, along with this note: 
My Name is Eamonn Newton from Dublin Ireland. I have a 1972 CB350P Police Bike. It was a demo model along with a CB500/4 and the CB750/4. The Irish Police or GARDA tryed out all three bikes and only wanted the two bigger bikes. The 350 was left in storage in the Honda Importers Reg Armstrongs. From 1972 till 1982 when a relation of mine who worked for Reg Armstrong and assembled the bike (CKD) came across it. He purchased it from the then new owners and took it to his Bikeshop. When I went to see it I had to have it. After some haggling I got it for the sum of 700 Irish pounds. The bike had only covered 717 miles at that stage of its life. It now sits in my garage with only one years driving on it since I got it. Intotal it has covered less than 10,000 miles in it's 38 years.

 Eamonn, thanks very much!

A Claremont, California motor officer on the new Honda ST-1300 based police motorcycle.
Yamaha Police Motorcycles

Here's a photo from Ian showing a four-cylinder Yamaha in Macau at the 2004 Grand Prix.

A Yamaha Police 650 in the Philippines, courtesy of Ian.

This is a 250cc Yamaha police bike in Macau (this photo is from Ian).

Another Ian photo of a 650 Yamaha Maxim-based police motorcycle, also in Macau.

My friend Ruud on his police FJR1300 in Belgium.  Ruud has been a federal police motor officer for 34 years!

That white holster made me curious about the handguns these fellows use, so I asked Ruud...it's a Browning 9mm Hi Power from Fabrique National.

This is one of John Browning's classic designs, and it was the first high-capacity, double-column magazine 9mm automatic.

Now here's something you don't see every day...a Yamaha XS650 police bike!  I had not known these even existed, but apparently they were used in Persia before the nuts took over.  Check out this cool email I received from Jos Van Meel:
Greetings,
With great interest I have been viewing your site with police/military motorbikes. As I was looking for some parts for my own police Yamaha XS650. I hope you like the pictures as the bike is now. Its a 1977 Yamaha XS650 with frame number 1E5-100847. The bike was made for the shah in Persia but as the Islamic Ayatollah Khomeini came into power and Persia was renamed into Iran the bike was banned from the streets. A Dutch Harley dealer imported the badly damaged Yamahas and sold them in the Netherlands and Germany.
Jos Van Meel
Netherlands
Jos Van Meel's very cool 1977 Yamaha XS650 Police bike.
Another view of Jos' dynamite Persian Police Yamaha.
A police Yamaha in Hong Kong in December 2011.
Other Police Motorcycles
Ian sent this photo from Guizhou in southwestern China.  These are 150cc Haojue Chinese motorcycles.
Here's a photo from my friend Ian in Hong Kong showing three ex-police bikes he recently picked up.  Looks like a couple of CBX650P Hondas and a comparable Yamaha XJ650P.  It's fascinating to see the bikes pressed into police service service in other parts of the world.  The Yamaha appears to be leaking a bit of oil.
These two police officers are riding single-cylinder Enfields in Mumbai, India.  Ross Thomas provided this photo.
Two motor officers on 125cc Xingfu Chinese police motorcycles.  China has a helmet law, but helmet use appears to be discretionary, even for the police.

Here's an earlier GS-series BMW in police service in Istanbul, Turkiye.

An unusual discovery...a Triumph Tiger police bike on Princess Island in Turkiye.

Here's a photo sent to us from Graeme in Australia, along with a description of what it was like to be a motor officer on a Triumph Thunderbird in New Zealand a few decades ago...
Hi there, Graeme from Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia here.  Being an ex police officer (Road Transport Division) in New Zealand in the 60's, I thought you may be interested in this one of myself on a Triumph Thunderbird 650cc.  As you can see we didn't have flashing lights in those days, or any weapons, but did have radios, which was at least was some sort of help.  The bikes were replaced every 2 Years with the mileage was around 40,000, they were reliable but a bit slow with the screen and the leg guards fitted. 

Don't know if you know about the  system we had  out here.   We had the  New Zealand Government Police Force, and The Government Ministry Of Transport, which I suppose was the same as your Federal Police, but some of the local towns, or town councils, sometimes had their traffic cops,  just a few, but only had jurisdiction  in the city limits, while we had the whole of NZ.  They were two complete separate identities. The police had complete power of arrest, while we only could arrest a driver who was intoxicated.  If we wanted any further help, we had to call the police. They also were tuned to our radio frequency.   I at that time was 24 years old and was posted in Hamilton, in the centre of the North Island for a couple of years, then was transferred down to the South Island to Oamaru on the East Coast.  There was a Senior Officer in Charge, and 2 cars and 1 m/cycle patrol in that small town of a few thousand.  I had a very large area to patrol of several hundred square miles in a car, a 1964 Vauxhall (an English car costing 12,000 NZ pounds, app; $US20.000).   This took all day, mind you, I only did that every 2nd week or so, the rest of the time was town patrol.

Please see the car photo....it is '65  Ford Falcon which was replaced after the Vauxhall had done its 2 years. I liked the Vauxhall best, as it had a top speed of 115 mph. Not bad for a 3.3 litre.  Hope this is of interest to you.

I am now 67, and still reminisce of the great time I had in that job.  I loved it as I was alone all the time, and only saw my boss now and then. 12 months ago I purchased a Honda Shadow, VT-750 (an ’08), and the wife and I love it.

Cheer's, Graeme

Other Marques in Other Places!
Here's a motor officer on a "Tiger Boxer" in Bangkok, courtesy of Ian.  Ian believes these are manufactured in Thailand.  I could be mistaken, but that sure looks like a .45 ACP 1911 sidearm this fellow is wearing.

Another Ian photo, showing the Bangkok "Tiger Boxer."

Here's one I grabbed in Bangkok just a few weeks ago...a Thai motor officer in traffic...

My shot in Bangkok of a couple more of the Tiger Boxers.   This photograph was just outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

Ian reported to us that this Hong Kong Moto Guzzi V50 was used on a trial basis only.  They were never officially brought into the police motorcycle fleet.

These are pretty cool shots from Guangzhou, China.  I grabbed them on a business trip in December 2011.

Police motorcycles are the only motorcycles or scooters you'll see in Guangzhou.  The city had a crime problem with purse snatchers and other crooks on scooters...so they solved it:  No more scooters or motorcycles in Guangzhou.  

Problem?  

Solution.  

Just like that!

These bikes look like they were rode hard and put away wet.  Check out the rear tire on this one.

Here's something cool...a New Orleans Police Department Vespa.  Here are a few comments from a NOPD officer...

Nice website, interesting pics.  I am a Police Officer in New Orleans (for the last 12 years). I am not in Traffic, but did work in the 8th District (which is the French Quarter) and I rode the scooters, at first we had Yamaha 125cc, I think they were "Rivas," then we switched to Piaggio Fly 150's and Vespa 150's.  The blue one in your pic was reserved for the on duty Rank (SGT or LT).  The Senior Sgt in the 8th District is assigned the unit number 820, all of the other scooters are silver with other numbers. There are also two other bigger Vespa's I believe GTS250's (they are 810 and 800). Unit 810 is the shift LT and 800 is the district Major. 

Another police scooter, this time in Singapore, from Ian.
A shot from Hong Kong (that's Ian in the middle) showing the made-in-the-USA electric Vectrix Scooter.  It's receiving the "Bike of  the Year" award for helping to clean up the city's environment.
Here's a photo from my friend Ron Bowers.  It's an Iraqi police Suzuki.  Here's what Ron had to say...
On my second tour in Iraq I was stationed in the Northern city of Mosul.  Very dangerous place, I would not recommend it for any kind of vacation site.  But just to the north is the city of Dohuk (duh-Hook) which is almost entirely Kurdish.  They have very little tolerance for the Arab troublemakers to the south.  In fact, you can see how little security we have.  No Armor, heavy weapons, etc..  Just a pistol in my belt.  We saw a Motorcycle Police officer several times that day and he waved each time.  We flagged him down to talk and each one of us got a chance to take a picture on his bike.  I was an E-7 in that photo.  On my birthday, my Iraqi Army counterpart made arraignments for me to ride several scooters.  He knew that I liked to ride so he had his soldiers round up as many scooters and motorcycles as he could and we spent the day riding!  Lots of fun!!!  

Ron, thanks for your service and thanks for this great photo! 


A bit of gun porn...

So it's only tangentially-related to police motorcycles, but an interesting photo nonetheless...a modern M-22 color case hardened 1917 S&W .45 ACP.  You gotta love these big bore revolvers (not much has changed in the last century...a testament to the original N-frame Smith and Wesson designers).  Their accuracy is just awesome!

And here's another modern classic...a Ruger Mini-14 with a Circassian walnut stock, one of a very limited run offered through Davidson's.   These are awesome rifles.   Based on the same operating principles as the venerable Garand, these rifles are reliable, hard-hitting, flat-shooting, and accurate!   I'll go out on a limb here and tell you my opinion:  If Ruger had offered the Mini-14 a few years earlier, I don't think there ever would have been an M-16!

Do you have an interesting shot of a military or police motorcycle?  Send it to us, and if possible, we'll post it on this page.  Just click here for our e-mail address!

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