#278 Motorcycle cop for a day

To gain a deeper appreciation for the men and women who serve on the motorcycle police forces of our communities, all you have to do is spend a few hours on their bike.

The Kawasaki Concours 14 on pages 36-39 would have been an excellent motorcycle anyway, even before the police specification and livery. With the traction control system Kawasaki calls K-TRAC, locking panniers, and a ferocious 16-valve 157-hp engine, the shaft-driven Concours is situated well up in the elite sport touring class. And with a combined braking system in which the front and rear binders are applied in differing amounts depending on which one is hit first, the Concours stops as good as it goes. But by the time it was kitted out according to police department specification, it was something else again. I call it the single most charismatic motorcycle I’ve ever ridden, and I’ve been on a few.
What makes it that? The lights, the siren, the service-duty horn? Maybe the pronounced checkerboard-on-bone white scheme with generic but instantly recognizable badging?
All I know is, the attitude of my fellow motorists was instantly changed when I rolled into their midst on it. Presumably, that’s the idea—to be immediately visible as a peace officer’s vehicle, and to be able to impose yourself psychologically into any given situation. We all know that police officers face many “situations” throughout their day.
I had picked up the bike from Oliver Jervis and was shuttling it to the office, but changed my mind and went for an afternoon spin instead.
(Oh, like that’s a bad thing.) I was enjoying the ride and, like Oliver, was just itching to push buttons and touch things. I wanted to hear that big ol’ siren and fire up that famous blue-and-red light bar. I was even playing with the notion of pulling over a friend or two, just to see the looks on their faces.
Of course that would have been monumentally stupid. To say nothing of totally illegal. Needless to say, I didn’t pull anyone over, or in any way deliberately represent myself to the public as a police officer. As I said, that would have been illegal … and had I been caught performing such an act I would have been rightfully punished to the fullest extent of the law. The fullest extent.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, I will admit to testing the lights and the horn—in a closed course situation—because I felt it was my duty to do so. It was a standard safety inspection. I can report that the lights and horn worked very well.
Terrifically well. Though it did take an anxious moment or two before I realized that the violently loud honking siren function is disabled by pushing twice on the same button that enabled it. Same with the lights.
But the sheer joy that came from activating these devices that are otherwise forbidden to civilians was nothing compared to the effect I was having on ordinary and hopefully innocent citizens when I simply rode into the streets among them. It took me a while to realize, but then it dawned on me: They think I’m a cop!
It occurred to me that I was even (sort of) dressed the part in my half-shell helmet, big dark shades, black leather jacket and black, full-length gauntlets. With the bold deputy star on the Kawi’s bodywork, what I looked like would have more closely resembled the stereotype of a southern motorcycle cop as seen on TV. But most motorists, Canadian or otherwise, have watched enough television in their lives that certain bits of information have been processed at a subconscious level over the years. On a first cursory glance, their initial instinctual reaction would have been: “Shoot, there’s a cop.”
A closer inspection of this “cop” would have revealed nothing more than another goofball with a loopy grin riding a bike that wasn’t his.
But by then the psychological impact would have already hit. How many times did I see people fall further behind me in my rear-view mirror?
How many times did I see them tromp on the brakes or otherwise modify their speed in my presence?
After a few episodes like this, my own behaviour began to change. I was getting increasingly offended. How stupid do they think I am? Do they really believe I’m falling for that?
I was getting pissed with Joe Public and I hadn’t even been “on shift” for half a day. Pretty soon I was actually alert to malfeasance. My head was on a swivel: Officer John was hunting for villains and wrongdoers. Geez. Talk about easily-influenced. There’s no doubt in my mind that “real” police officers, the actual professionals, train rigourously to cope with the many psychological inputs they encounter.
Otherwise they’d be basketcases in their first week on the job.
I’ve often wondered why an otherwise perfectly sane person would want to be a cop. The stress is phenomenal. Think about the role of first responders at a highway crash involving minivans and soccer teams. The abuse is outrageous. Ask any member who has ever been called to break up a family spat. Guess who the “bad guy” is nine times out of ten.
There’s the possibility of more physical danger in one shift than you and I are likely to experience in a lifetime. Remember Mayerthorpe?
Cops have a tough job. And if you don’t believe that, you’re nuts.
Oliver’s story, “Pondering the Peacemaker,” offers insight to the intense training and challenges faced by the men and women who “serve and protect.” Give it a read.