For over a century, motorcycles have offered law enforcement agencies many tactical advantages over their four-wheeled counterparts. Motor units enjoy greater maneuverability allowing them to zip through congested traffic and crowds. Their smaller size police motorcycle allows officers to patrol where traditional police cruisers cannot. Their acceleration and top speeds put first responder’s on scene more quickly. And due to their comparably low fuel and maintenance costs, they bring all this to the table at a much lower total cost of ownership than four-wheeled patrol vehicles. 

Watch as a Florence PD, Ala., motorcycle officer performs some of the most impressive motorcycling I’ve ever seen. Superior acceleration and top speed allow the officer to pursue the subject while exercising safe riding practices. Even though the officer slows and looks both ways for oncoming traffic at every intersection, he is still able to quickly and consistently close the gap with the fleeing car. This allows him to relay location and direction of travel information in real time via radio to dispatchers, resulting in the apprehension of the subject.

Modern IT and mobility trends further enhance what is already a solid business case for motor patrols. Today, thousands of motor officers across the country leverage information technology and mobile data in the field that used to be contained only in the office. As the public’s expectations of policing evolve, IT managers, fleet managers and command staff push the envelope of what technology can do. Agencies tap many of the following solutions to enhance officer safety and efficacy while on two wheels.

Power Management. A power management module like the Havis ChargeGuard allows us to automate the power behavior of integrated IT equipment. For example, with a turn of the ignition key, the mobile data terminal (MDT) and e-citation printer could boot up. To avoid parasitic battery loss caused by running the electronics while the engine is off, the ChargeGuard can be programmed to power electronics down automatically before the battery is drained.

Mobile Devices. Motor officers have traditionally utilized a convertible tablet in a saddlebag or trunk as their primary MDT. Manufacturers have risen to customer’s requests for rugged mobile devices that are smaller and easier to use with new models like the Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1. This six-inch, fully-rugged Windows tablet mounts easily to a motorcycle and is also small enough to fit in most pockets. iKey makes a rugged clip-on keyboard for full-text entry.

Samsung produces a ruggedized Android tablet—the Galaxy Tab Active—for Android OS users.

Another option is to utilize a PDRC (Permanent Display Removable Computer). PDRCs allow for a large touchscreen display up front powered by a saddlebag or trunk-mounted MDT.

Phones. Smartphones shine as a mobile platform. Newly-released devices from Panasonic and Samsung are engineered to withstand the harsh conditions where first responders often need to work. The Samsung S5 Active (Android), Panasonic FZ-E1 (Windows), and the Panasonic FZ-X1 (Android) meet and exceed various rugged specifications traditionally found on full-size MDT’s.

Device Mounting. To increase safety and productivity, RAM Mounts offers many device mounting solutions for motorcycles. Bluetooth speakers and microphones can also be integrated into many motorcycle helmets to allow for voice dialing and answering, control of apps, and turn-by-turn navigation. I use the Sena SMH10, capable of helmet-to-helmet intercom communication, as well as connecting to multiple Bluetooth-enabled devices simultaneously.

Federal CJIS Security Policy Compliance. The Federal CJIS Security Policy states that certain security measures must be in place – including advanced authentication – when accessing criminal justice information from outside of a secure environment. Though patrol cars are considered secure, motorcycles are not. Many options can be integrated into modern mobile devices to facilitate advanced authentication. An officer might swipe their driver’s license or magnetic striped ID card – in combination with a password or PIN – to log in. With the wave of a contactless smartcard over an RFID reader embedded in the mobile device, an officer can login to Windows, CAD, RMS and other software.

Printing. Motor officers need not forgo printing documents or citations in the field. Often mounted in a saddlebag or trunk, rugged mobile printers by Brother are up to the task. Both the PocketJet (8.5” x 11”) and the RuggedJet (4”) use thermal paper rated for 20-year retention.

Video evidence. Law enforcement officers are increasingly expected to document their interactions with the public via evidence-grade video. Many traditional in-vehicle video systems like the Panasonic Arbitrator 360HD can be modified for use on a motorcycle. This enables many of the same features that officers have come to count on in their patrol vehicles like automatically triggering videos via the light bar, pursuit speed or collision sensors.

Many agencies are opting for wearable cameras. For more information on wearable cameras, check out my post titled, Wearable Cameras for Law Enforcement Enhance Evidence Collection.

Looking forward. Electric bikes from Zero Motorcycles offer high performance at an extremely low cost of ownership. Naturally quiet, electric bikes lend themselves well to stealth operations where silence is an advantage. The absence of exhaust eliminates ventilation concerns and opens up new patrolling scenarios.

Automatic transmissions found in production bikes like the Honda CTX700 and the Honda NM4 allow officers to focus more on police work.

There are great things ahead for motorcycles in law enforcement. Further miniaturization and integration of technology promise to streamline and empower officers, technology integrators and public safety vehicle upfitters. As the diversity of motorcycles expands, and technology evolves, law enforcement will continue to find ways to leverage this unique platform to gain the advantage on – and off – the streets.

To learn more about how technology is helping to keep our streets safe, check out our Public Safety section of StateTech Magazine.


2 thoughts on “IT and the 21st Century Police Motorcycle

  • Buy American says:

    Where do you think electricity comes from? Do you not think coal leaves a carbon foot print? It’s not a natural resource people.. Wake up and what do you do with the batteries when they go bad? You still have liquid waiste that is toxic and lead cells.
    On that note, I know who I’d rather have chasing me lol. A cop with very limited motorcycle that does emit a carbon foot print to charge batteries..

  • Dennis Newman says:

    Motorcycle officers are a great revenue source for cities they hide and catch unsuspecting motorists They also require the agency to have a car to be used in rain and other bad weather They have a higher rate of officer injuries than autos

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