The Florida A&M University Police Department has integrated a specialized traffic unit comprised of two motorcycle officers and four police service technicians to provide better traffic safety, control and enforcement on campus.
“The motorcycles are the first line of defense because they are the eyes and the ears on campus,” said Crime Prevention Officer Sherri Luke. “It is a great prevention tool.”
The traffic unit, which became operational in February 2006, was organized to use motorcycles because “motorcycles are highly mobile and fuel efficient,” said Sgt. Mike Hollett, head of the traffic unit. “They put two officers on motorcycles for what it costs for one car,” he added.
The motorcycle unit has also reduced the operating budget and allows officers to respond faster to emergencies across campus, especially during periods of increased traffic congestion such as homecoming and move-in.
“This concept (of patrolling on motorcycles) utilizes the interaction between citizens and law enforcement in reducing crime,” Luke said.
Officers on motorcycles have “increased encounters with students face to face.”
This new method of patrolling is a concept the FAMU Police Department refers to as “community oriented policing.” Luke said, “The interaction with students provides the officers and students an avenue to communicate issues of concern.”
The motorcycles used are BMW GS650(F) racing bikes that are designed to travel on and off the road. The bikes are equipped with emergency response equipment.
Officer Derrick Westbrooks, a 12-year veteran of FAMU PD, thinks the benefits of being on a motorcycle rather than in a car are officers can hear and see everything much easier.
“We can stay near large crowds and monitor the activity,” Westbrooks said.
Westbrooks also said that the bikes are more visible to students and that they’re convenient for handling parking and traffic situations. “(The students) thought it was funny to see us on bikes at first, but I don’t think we look that bad,” Westbrooks said.
Some students were surprised to see a new form of police transportation on the campus and didn’t think the motorcycles were needed.
Marcus Boothe, 18, a freshmen political science student from Tampa, said he didn’t think there was a reason to have them.
“The motorcycles are not really a necessity but a different way of protection,” he said.
Jennifer Harris, 21, a senior bio-chemistry student from Chicago, said the only benefit of being on a motorcycle rather than in a car is that officers can weave through traffic.
“They can still pull you over if they want you,” Harris said. “Officers being on a motorcycle or in a car won’t make a difference.”
FAMU’s police hope that using motorcycles as a way of transportation will break down the barrier between student and officer.
“Everyone likes motorcycles,” Hollett said. “They allow people to feel comfortable.”
Although some students don’t think the motorcycles are essential for protection, Hollett said that most of the attention out in the field has been positive.
“FAMU is one of many schools across the nation to use motorcycles,” Hollett said.
The Motorcycle Unit is not used just for parking but DUI check points and traffic enforcement.
Other students do think that having police on motorcycles will help solve some of the problems on campus.
“The motorcycles can come to us faster and it cuts down on them sitting in traffic,” said Shakela Reid, 20, a sophomore criminal justice student from Atlanta.
Morris Prioleau, 21, a sophomore electrical engineer student from Pineville, SC., also sees the advantage over cars in traffic.
“The motorcycles increase safety of the students on campus, bottom line,” Hollett said.
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