West Valley City police officers train for summer motorcycle patrols

Apr 26, 2022, 7:21 PM | Updated: Jun 10, 2022, 11:46 pm

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — West Valley City police officers are undergoing a special training program, learning how to police in a way some officers have never experienced before. But first, they’ve got to work out the kinks before hitting the streets.

On Tuesday afternoon, dozens of orange cones littered the Maverik Center parking lot, set up in lines and patterns.

A group of officers dressed down in comfortable clothes sat on motorcycles in one corner. Suddenly, two took off and sped up, headed toward an arrangement of orange cones.

The pair suddenly slammed on the breaks, stopping just before a line of cones and riding through narrow slots between the cones.

As they turned tightly to weave their way through a makeshift course, one officer suddenly tipped the bike over.

They’ve been doing this over and over for a week and a half, in a course much more advanced than most motorcycle riders experience.

The department is getting ready for summer traffic enforcement, with a two-week motor squad course.

West Valley City traffic officer Kenneth Powell will tell you it’s difficult — and he rides dirt bikes.

He chuckled while saying he didn’t do very well riding a motorcycle through the course at first.

“There’s way more work to put into it than a dirt bike,” he said. “A lot of thinking, a lot of looking where you’re going.”

He’s part of the new squad of motors officers honing advanced motorcycle skills, as he learns how to ride in more intense situations.

“Learning all sorts of different things, from tight turns to stopping and breaking,” Powell explained.

He indicated there’s a lot to think about while riding, like “letting dispatch know what you’re doing, where you’re at, what’s happening.”

Det. Mike Millett, a motor instructor at West Valley City police, explained officers learn techniques like 90-degree pullouts from a complete stop, tight 180-degree turns, sudden breaking at high speeds, and easily fitting through a five-foot keyhole space.

“We can get a motorcycle in through backed up traffic where a patrol car or a larger vehicle can’t, we can take it off the road, it can go up on grass, it goes up sidewalks/curbs — so it’s a great tool,” Millett said.

To be able to handle whatever comes their two-wheeled way, officers spend two weeks nailing down the skills with a test at the very end.

Millett said the test is timed, and anytime an officer puts their foot down or hits a cone, time is added.

After the final test, officers enter a field training program that lasts a few weeks before they’re ready to patrol on their own.

The officers going through the course now will be ready to hit the streets just in time for summer.

Millett said they need to make sure the motors squad can work under stress, and officers need to get a point, “where they learn to master the ability to throw that bike around, and to be a master and control that vehicle.”

A week and a half in, Officer Powell is getting the hang of it.

He’s been with West Valley City police for four years and described how his dad is the reason he’s interested in joining the motor squad.

“My dad was a motor officer down in California,” Powell explained. “So I remember being a little kid, him coming home for lunch and giving us little rides around the front yard on his motorcycle.”

Soon, he’ll be the one patrolling the roads — keeping the community safe.

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West Valley City police officers train for summer motorcycle patrols