University police receive motorcycle certification

by Jerret Raffety

Some University and Minneapolis police officers said goodbye to their squad cars Friday at a ceremony in Williams Arena.

The ceremony honored five Minneapolis police officers and one University police officer who received motorcycle certification.

The certification allows the officers to enforce the law using police Harley-Davidson Electra Glide motorcycles.

Scott Olson, one of the program’s training officers, said the motorcycle certification course is a challenge for many officers.

“When (the officers) start off, they feel like they’ve ridden motorcycles for a long time, they think they know how to ride bikes,” Olson said to an audience of family and friends of the newly certified officers.

“They find out the first day that it’s going to be a whole new ball game when they get on these bikes and get out on the course,” he said.

The course teaches officers motorcycle maintenance, operation, slow- and high-speed maneuvers, braking, cornering, and evasive maneuvers, Olson said.

The course lasts two weeks and is done twice a year in downtown St. Paul.

Greg Hestness, University Police Department chief, was at the ceremony to present certificates along with Deputy Chief Lucy Gerold of the Minneapolis Police Department.

Hestness said in a speech that motorcycle certification teaches officers useful skills and discipline.

“It’s a tough course to come through and these officers are to be commended,” he said.

University police officer Matt Quast said motorcycle certification was the most difficult police training he’s ever had. He said he has been riding motorcycles for 14 years.

Quast said the most challenging part of the training was successfully completing a “keyhole exercise,” which is a 360-degree turn in a space confined by cones.

He said the training will help him do his job better because it will increase his visibility to the public, which allows people to more easily approach and relate to police officers.

Minneapolis Police Department officer Roosevelt Walls Jr. had the highest score of the class. He is in his first year of riding, he said.

Walls said the training required much confidence and concentration to pass.

“The instructors said, ‘Trust in what we’re telling you, we went through it, we know how to get you through it,’ ” Walls said. “We had faith in our instructors, we did what they told us to do, we believed in ourselves and we pulled it off.”

Walls said the most challenging drill he learned was the “30 miles per hour to 180-degree deceleration,” which involves making four turns in a confined space. This turning space must be approached at 30 miles per hour.

Sgt. Curtis Sandell of the St. Paul Police Department said motorcycle training began approximately six years ago in St. Paul after being absent from the Twin Cities for the last 30 years.

Sandell said motorcycles are an outstanding traffic tool for police because they can maneuver in places squad cars cannot.

Since then, he and his colleagues have trained more than 60 officers in 12 different departments, Sandell said.