Mandeville Police Department adds motorcycles for traffic enforcement
December 18, 2009, 5:30AM
Ellis Lucia/The Times-PicayuneMandeville police officer William Foil, who has extensive experience in riding, is one of the first Mandeville police officers to use the motorcycles.Mandeville police officers are getting their motors running, bringing enforcement on two wheels to the city's streets.
This week the department rolled out its first motorcycle units in an effort to improve patrols and boost public relations.
While the popular image of motorcycle officers involves high-speed runs through traffic that would block a patrol car, Capt. Ron Ruple said he sees the new unit playing a different role.
Instead, the two bikes will be used mainly in Mandeville's residential neighborhoods and subdivisions with a particular emphasis on traffic enforcement, said Ruple, the department's highest-ranking officer. Many of the city's narrow streets make parking a patrol car to watch for speeders and stop-sign runners impractical but a motorcycle could be easily kept out of the way as an officer operates a radar gun, he said.
Pursuits and enforcement on the major arteries that run through Mandeville will not be the officers' focus.
"They can do it, but it's not what their main mission is going to be," Ruple said.
The first two officers to use the motorcycles, William Foil and Perry Otillio, both have extensive experience in riding and were among a handful of volunteers for the new unit. Ruple said he hopes to have at least two more officers trained to use the motorcycles in the near future so that there can be at least one bike out for each shift.
The motorcycle patrol was first tested on Saturday but rain has kept the bikes housed at Mandeville police headquarters since then, Ruple said. When weather prevents the Harley Road Kings from being used, the officers will handle their patrols in regular cruisers, he said.
Mandeville will be the only municipal agency in St. Tammany Parish to run motorcycle patrols, though both the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office and State Police have some officers riding on two wheels.
The department acquired the bikes, which had been used by the Sheriff's Office, by swapping two cruisers that were sent to a surplus property auction, Ruple said. Mandeville got the motorcycles, which were also set to go on the auction block, and the Sheriff's Office got the proceeds from the cruisers, he said.
The department got the motorcycles over the summer and has spent the past several months outfitting them with police gear and getting Otillio and Foil trained in a two-week program run by the Sheriff's Office, Ruple said. Including the cost of repairing and equipping the bikes and buying new uniforms for the officers, the total cost of the program was less than $6,000, he said.
"To put two different bikes out there for that kind of money, we couldn't do it any other way," Ruple said.
Otillio, who has been riding for 13 years, said he's looking forward to the patrols, particularly since they give more flexibility to officers than a cruiser.
And Foil, who has been riding for six years, said the bikes bring another benefit: They're great for public relations. People tend to want to come up to officers to look at or talk about the motorcycles and officers are more directly in contact with the public -- a major facet of the department's community policing program -- than when riding in cars, he said.
"It's going to be a wonderful asset," he said.
Jeff Adelson can be reached at Jeff Adelson, The Times-Picayune or 985.645.2852.