The Salt Lake City Police Department Motorcycle Squad is in the middle of its annual two-week Motor School for officers who want to join this elite group. The officers are training 10 to 12 hours per day at the Utah State Fairgrounds Parking lot.
Officer Thomas Wind is the lead instructor this year. He says the school opens with about a dozen candidates for the squad but even good riders drop out due to fatigue and minor injuries. Wind says they hope to add up to four new officers to the squad.
I don’t want to let them know but sometimes we, we do have it almost kind of picked out, who you think is going to pass. But we’ve also had students couldn’t even ride the bike straight for 50 feet and then by the end of school they’re one of the top notch riders," says Winds. "It’s just…they need to buy into what we teach them. They do that and they can pass,” Wind says.
Officers practice what they call “The River”…orange cones arranged to the exact dimensions of a particularly challenging spot along the Jordan River that the squad has to patrol.
They’re simulating a U-turn in one lane of traffic or a parking stall where you’re going to have to make that turn without putting your foot down or tipping the bike over," says Wind. "We need to get on our bike, get going, make that turn and get after that violator.”
Wind says later in the course they practice on the actual river trail and occasionally fall in. He says even though it’s an extra challenge to become a motor officer, they are very effective in traffic because they are small, agile and fast.
“It’s kind of a rush,” says Wind.
There are currently nearly 30 Salt Lake City Motor Squad Officers.