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RHPD motorcycles arrive in nick of time
All four of the new RHPD motorcycles line up in front of the Douglas T. Ellis Law Enforcement Center. Assigned to them are, from left, Star Corporal Steve Potts, Corporal Rick Olesky, Officer Lee Rodriguez and Corporal Brian Martin.

RHPD bikes

Video of the new motorcycles.

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When Richmond Hill Police Department Chief Billy Reynolds put in an order for motorcycles to be added to the force, his primary focus was to conserve gas. With gas reaching the four dollar mark recently, Reynolds said the bikes couldn’t have been put into place at a better time.

The city’s finance director, Bob Whitmarsh, estimates that, with all the unexpected rises in gas this year, 92 percent of the budgeted 2008 RHPD fuel costs have already been used up. He applauds Reynolds’ decision to add motorcycles, which he said will put a dent in getting the department’s fuel costs in line.

Four motorcycles in all are now in use at the RHPD.

Two Harley Davidsons arrived earlier this month to join the two Johnny Pags that were added to patrol two months ago. On average, the bikes get about 65 miles to the gallon.

Reynolds assigned Star Corporal Steve Potts and Corporal Brian Martin to exclusive use of the new Harleys. Corporal Rick Olesky and Officer Lee Rodriguez are also being trained for Harley use while riding the Johnny Pags in the interim. All four are slated to take an intensive training class in Forsyth next month as Reynolds plans to add two more Harleys to the force in the near future.

"We were initially approved for four Harleys," Reynolds said. "We’ve only leased the two thus far, so two more could be added soon."

Reynolds said the imported Johnny Pag bikes cost $4,000, which all came from seized fund money. He said the Electra Glide Harley models are being leased for $3,600 a year and cost an additional $2,000 each to customize.

Several other RHPD officers will be utilizing the Johnny Pags as well. Corporal Susan Willis said at least half the current RHPD already ride motorcycles in their personal time. She said this made the chief’s decision much easier because he knew this transition would come with minimal training. So far, seven officers have completed a Johnny Pag training course recently conducted by the Savannah-Chatham Police Department.

Martin said there are many other advantages to the bikes besides saving fuel costs. "We’ll be able to quickly get in and out of tight areas that you can’t normally take a vehicle."

Potts added that the bikes have added an element of surprise to patrol.

"They give us the ability to roll up on someone before they even realize it," Potts said. "The bikes are much quieter and less imposing than cars. Plus no one is looking for a police officer on a motorcycle in Richmond Hill right now."

Potts said the Harleys are typically used for traffic enforcement while the Johnny Pags, which only have a 300cc engine, are mainly used for patrol.

Reynolds said, although the bikes can get up to 70-80 mph, back-up must be called if a motorcycle cop encounters the need for a high speed pursuit. "It’s dangerous enough for our officers with a vehicle with four wheels, so we’re just not going to do it."

Martin, who is an avid motorcycle enthusiast in his leisure time, said another advantage to the bikes is that, "it makes us more accessible to the public. When we stop, we encourage folks to come up and talk to us about the bikes or any other issues."

This particular model of Johnny Pag only comes packaged for police use as opposed to the Harley Davidson which, if you take all the lighting equipment, the sirens and the decals off of it, you have a standard Harley that anyone can pick up off the showroom. It does have a police package engine though. The standard civilian model comes with a 96 cubic inch engine and the police bikes come with a 103 cubic inch engine.

The Johnny Pag riders add just a helmet to the officers’ regular uniform while the Harleys will soon have a new customized uniform.

Martin pointed out the Harley’s "beefed up suspension" ABS brakes and six-speed transmission - most of which comes from being a 2009 model.

"For the ‘09 model year, they’ve done extensive changes to the length and performance and it reflects everything that police officers have contacted Harley with and told them that we would like to see," Martin said. "Harley went ahead and incorporated 175 changes that not only police officers but civilians had recommended since the last model. So far, from what I’ve seen, it’s all for the better. I’ve got a 2004 Harley at home, and I can tell you that this one is top of the line. They have made phenomenal milestones with the way they handle and operate."


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