Who hasn't been slowed down by the sight of that handsome motorcycle cop sitting on the side of the road? They are just the coolest of all "authority" figures. But how did they come to be? It's a story that started over a hundred years ago.
Back in 1908 the first of the motorcycle patrols began in Detroit. The first bikes used were Harley-Davidsons. Can't you just picture the way they looked from the old silent pictures seeing Charlie Chaplin making his getaway on a slick bike? What a change from today! In the beginning they were used by police departments mainly for their maneuverability and reliability. Their uses constantly changed with the times and world events.
During the Spanish American War and WWI motorcycles were used as valuable military vehicles. Over 20,000 were used in WW1 to dispatch messages before radios were really reliable sources. Most of these had side cars so that they could have a gun mount on them for defense. Even when Pancho Villa attacked New Mexico, he was chased down by "Black Jack" Pershing on motorcycles!
During the Roaring 20's motorcycles started being used by the newly formed State Police. The state police was formed mainly to enforce prohibition and protect the rural areas. The motorcycle was the best choice on the rural rutted roads of the time. In 1921 The Washington state troopers were begun with a total of 6 motorcycle policemen. In Louisiana they had just 16 motorcycle police officers to cover the entire state! During this time the speed limits were not enforced and the fatalities on the highways were high. For this reason the number of motorcycle police increased quickly growing to over 3,000 by the end of the 1920's. They were so quick and maneuverable that they were able to enforce the speed limits and therefore make the roads safer. Can't you just see them sitting behind the cigarette billboard waiting for that unsuspecting motorist?
As their popularity kept growing so did the tensions around the world. WWII was underway and so was the motorcycle brigade. Over 88,000 motorcycles were produced by Harley Davidson alone to be used in the war effort. When I picture this I still see Steve McQueen trying to jump the fence in "The Great Escape". Maybe even a few scenes from Hogan's Heroes where Sgt Schultz is trying to get in and out of a sidecar. Well, good luck with that! Such crazy stuff all the more effective because of the motorcycle.
Labels: Motorcycle Cop