Bakersfield Police motorcycle unit is disbanding; Chief calls them dangerous

Injuries forces chief to make the decision

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -  A 100 year-old tradition is coming to an end at the Bakersfield Police Department.

The motorcycle unit is being disbanded and Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson is not looking back.

Williamson called motorcycles swift, effective, but dangerous.

He said when he saw too many of his officers getting hurt, he had to make the decision on whether to keep this motorcycle unit or enhance the safety of his officers and disband it.

"It was my decision to make and that's the decision that I made," said Williamson.

He said back in 2007 and 2008 he saw an increase in the number of injuries to officers who were on patrol on their bikes.

That coincides with information from the California Office of Traffic Safety.

Their report shows that civilian motorcycle fatalities in California increased 175% between 1998 and 2008.

He said last year they had 20 motorcycles and reduced the unit by nine.

This year he will reduce their 11 bike unit by seven more and the remaining four will be used to patrol the riverbed and tough terrain areas.

Williamson said many of his officers who were hurt on a bike while on patrol had to retire because of their injuries, and that was his tipping point.

"Some of the officers are disappointed. They love it,” said Williamson.

The motorcycle unit started with one officer in 1910 who had to provide his own bike.

Williamson said what has worked in the past isn't working anymore.

"Eighty-percent of the officers whose names are on the memorial downstairs died as a result of a motorcycle accident in the line of duty," he said

Williamson said he wants to reassure the public that he will not be scaling back on traffic enforcement.

The officers who are pulled off the motorcycles will get a new assignment and a patrol car.

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