- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2001

D.C. police officials yesterday began tackling a backlog of vehicle repairs that has hamstrung one-third of the police department's Harley-Davidson motorcycles, which are used in motorcades and security details.

"They need to be fixed," police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said of the 20 motorcycles awaiting repair in the department's new fleet garage at West Virginia and Montana avenues NE.

The Washington Times yesterday reported that one-third of the department's Harley-Davidson motorcycles were out of commission because of a backlog of repairs at the garage.

The motorcycles are used by the Special Operations Division (SOD) to escort and provide additional security for President Bush and other dignitaries in the District. Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, SOD motorcycle officers have been working nonstop to provide extra security around the city.

The police department has 60 Harley-Davidson motorcycles and 40 SOD motorcycle officers. Eleven of the older models usually are used only for training while nine others are held in reserve.

But all the older training and reserve models have been pressed into service because 20 SOD motorcycles are awaiting repairs in the fleet garage and two others are being fixed at other garages. SOD officers have been forced to share motorcycles or use police cars instead.

Some motorcycle officers yesterday said they are glad Chief Ramsey has taken notice, and that they have complained for months about faulty repairs and the length of time their equipment was in the shop.

"The motormen were overjoyed somebody finally said something about the motors," said a police department source familiar with the problem.

Police sources said the repair backlog has been building up for months because of slow mechanics provided by Serco Management Services Inc., the private company that repairs police vehicles.

Serco mechanics have taken longer to make minor repairs; a one-day oil change takes three days to complete, said a police source familiar with the fleet garage.

In addition, the mechanics have performed incomplete preventive maintenance, forcing officers to return their vehicles to the shop, the source said.

In addition to the 20 motorcycles, more than 100 of the department's 1,300 police cars are awaiting repair or service at the fleet maintenance facility in Northeast.

Police department sources said Serco mechanics appear to be working slower because the company is operating under a month-to-month contract until the department can rebid its $3.5 million contract to repair police vehicles.

A Serco employee said the police department has brought in more cars than usual and more than the mechanics can handle.

Serco manager David Tetreault said he could not comment on the backlog or repairs.

Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey ordered the contract rebid May 10 after The Times reported that the department's mismanagement led to a nearly $900,000 cost overrun in the contract, that Serco had double-billed the department, and that the son of a former Serco official was paid about $100,000 to work on police cars although he was not qualified and had not paid local taxes.

The department has yet to advertise the contract for rebid.

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