By Hannah LaClaireTimes Record
BRUNSWICK — Brunswick Police have a new ride.
According to Chief Scott Stewart, the $22,000 Harley Davidson Electra Glide Police Edition FLHTP will be used, weather permitting, much the same as a regular patrol cruiser— assisting in traffic stops, crashes and calls, with the added benefit of increasing police visibility within the community.
The motorcycle was funded through the department’s cruiser capitol line and supplemented with drug forfeiture money and proceeds from the sale of used cruisers.
The bike is equipped with a siren, lights, radio and radar, and soon the department will have new “mobile data terminals,” or computers that Stewart likened to “ruggedized tablets” that officers will be able to bring with them. This will give the motor unit much of the same functionality of a cruiser, just without the ability to transport anyone.
The bike, which can maneuver in and out of traffic more easily than a cruiser, is ideal for a town like Brunswick, Stewart added, because of its relatively narrow streets and traffic congestion. Being smaller, it’s also easier to hide or use to monitor areas in close quarters.
More than anything though, Stewart sees the motorcycle as a way to promote community policing in Brunswick and around the area a recruitment tool.
This will give officers higher visibility, and according to Stewart, people are more likely to engage with officers on a bike than a cruiser.
Plus, he said, “when the bike is taken on a call, kids just flock to it.”
Officers Whitney Burns, Corey Iles, Greg McCarthy and Nick Bedard make up Brunswick’s new motor unit, overseen by Sgt. Justin Dolci. Two more officers will join the unit in the spring after they complete training.
Philip Miles, police sales leasing manager for Seacoast Harley Davidson and a retired Portsmouth Police Officer, estimates he has trained about 1,000 officers on the bike in the last 24 years. Harley Davidson had a police training program until recently, but Seacoast Harley has continued on its own, training four officers for free with a department’s motorcycle purchase.
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“It’s very physical, very demanding,” he said. “I trained all four of the (Brunswick) officers, and they all did a great job.”
Dolci will go through the training in the spring.
The 40-hour training is for advanced riders, so all members of Brunswick’s motor unit have previous motorcycle experience.
The training features slow maneuvers, forcing officers to move through heavy turns and difficult cone patterns at only two miles per hour, or working with sudden stops.
“Officers are picking the bike back up constantly,” he said, and usually leave the first few days tired, sore and “a little humbled.”
“Every police (office) says it’s the hardest course they’ve ever done,” Miles said, but “everyone who comes wants to come to the training,” so watching the lightbulb come on when they finally get it is rewarding.
“It’s the best job I could have asked for after retiring from police work,” he said.
Plus, he added, “I like going out there and riding circles around those young guys.”
Miles has upheld the value of motor units for years, and was glad to hear Brunswick finally had one.
“I was shocked when they called… I said ‘So, they finally got a chief smart enough to get a motorcycle.’”
“Even back in the day, it was about community policing back before anybody used that phrase,” he said. “You’d ride through the neighborhood, let the kids come look at the bike. You let them sit on it… I’m probably in a million pictures.”
Officers are already seeing the benefits.
According to Burns, the motorcycle allows for more face to face interaction with officers than when they’re behind a cruiser window. Some officers said they’ve already had full conversations with people when stopped at traffic lights.
“It makes us more approachable,’ McCarthy said.
McCarthy and Bedard approached Stewart, who started in July, within his first week with their proposal for the motor unit, something the new chief said he was more than happy to support.
“I was surprised Brunswick didn’t have one,” he said, especially since the town, with a well-respected community police force, is such a “prime location.”
Many Maine departments, including Bath, Augusta, Lewiston, and even the state police all have at least one motorcycle.
Stewart admitted the bike will have to be more of a fair-weather vehicle, but expects he will have to be the one to tell officers when it’s time to put it away for the season, and said the benefits outweigh the costs.
Whether they will build a fleet remains to be seen.
“We’ll get more use of it and see how it goes before getting another one,” he said.