Think of a stereotypical motorcycle-riding traffic cop in the U.S. and the chances are you’ll immediately think of a sunglass-wearing gum,chewing officer sitting atop a massive Harley-Davidson Electra Glide or a sporty BMW R1300 cruiser at the side of a remote stretch of freeway, speed-gun balanced carefully on the bike’s massive frame to catch speeding motorists.
But as Motorcycle reported earlier this month (via Autobloggreen) that stereotype about cops is, like the one about donuts and coffee shops, heading into extinction thanks to an increasing number of police forces around the country which are turning to the joys of all-electric motoring thanks to Zero Motorcycle’s special range of police motorcycles.
Motorcycle says the many of the police departments around the U.S. using Zero’s specially-designed police-spec machines put them to service in the traffic division, where they help officers deal with everything from traffic stops to emergency response, outreach and education. At the Ceres California Police Department however, the team of mounted officers can claim their three Zero electric motorcycles have helped them do something else too: foil a bank robbery.
As the story goes, Ceres PD Lieutenant Chris Perry and Officer Keith Kitcher were returning to base last year shortly after completing one of their first rides out on their then brand-new Zero DS-P electric police motorcycles — one of three different models available to police and security forces — when they heard a radio call reporting an armed bank robbery was in progress at a local bank.
Based on Zero’s civilian Dual Sport (DS) model, the DS-P is as happy off-road as it is on road, and at half the weight of a traditional V-twin police motorcycle, it can do things that traditional police motorcycles struggle to do, like jumping curbs and tackling stairways — things that would leave most Electra Glide riders in a pickle. Understanding just what the new motorcycles could do, the officers pushed their silent rides to their limits, jumping curbs and riding silently along sidewalks to shave minutes off their response time.
The Zero DS-P can do things that traditional police motorcycles struggle to do, like jumping curbs and tackling stairways
As they arrived, the two officers noticed a parked car with a driver waiting inside — the potential getaway car. While one moved in to apprehend the driver, the other rode right up to the bank door, hopping over a centre median in the bank’s parking lot and silently arriving just as an armed robber exited the bank. Having drawn his pistol, the officer was able to ‘subdue’ the perpetrator, while his colleague arrested the getaway driver.
Had the pair been riding on gasoline-powered, large-capacity Harley-Davidson cruisers, the motorcycle’s trademark throbbing would have alerted the criminals to the police’s presence long before either cop was on the scene.
“That was the first real test that showed us what these bikes are capable of and how useful they can be in our environment,” said Lieutenant Perry.” If we were on our regular Harley-Davidson Police motorcycles, we couldn’t have made some of the manoeuvres we made, like jumping that median, and we couldn’t have done anything without making a lot of noise.”
Don’t think either that Ceres is either a tough inner-city environment where distances travelled are small, or the easy beat of a gentrified suburban neighbourhood. Located on State Route 99 between Fresno and Modesto in the San Joaquin Valley, the Ceres Police force — just 56 sworn officers strong — has to deal with a full gamut of crimes and duties, ranging from murder and rape to assault, theft, drug offences and prostitution. Essentially an agricultural town as well as a bedding community for commuters to and from the San Francisco Bay Area, its crime rate is considered average for the U.S. by City-Data.com
It isn’t just the ease of use and quiet, smooth ride of the Zero Motorcycles Police range that police departments are raving about, either. According to officials in Ceres, the Zero DS-P motorcycles on the fleet cost just $1 per day to operate, versus the $15 in gasoline of previous machines. With fewer moving parts, maintenance costs are dramatically reduced too.
In addition, with no large gasoline engine throbbing between officers’ legs, riding the Zero DS-P is far more pleasant on hot summer days, while a heated seat helps keep riders warm in the winter.
As for the biggest critique of electric motorcycles: their limited range? With an 8.5 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, Sgt. Jason Coley — one of the biggest skeptics of electric motorcycles until he actually rode the new units purchased by the force — said there’s enough power to give all-day operation without getting range anxiety, provided he starts the day with a full battery.
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