- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2001

One-third of the Metropolitan Police Department's fleet of Harley-Davidson motorcycles cannot be used in motorcades or security details because of a backlog of vehicles awaiting repair in the fleet garage, said police sources familiar with the situation.

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.

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

"We have officers doing their own repairs to their bikes because they don't want to lose their equipment," said a police official who asked not to be identified.

"We have a lot more work because of the number of dignitaries in town who want to sign onto the [anti-terrorism] coalition. The president will always get full coverage, but some of these diplomats may be down a motor or two," the official said. "We've just learned to be as effective with less."

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 cycles are awaiting repairs in the fleet garage and two others are being repaired at other garages. SOD officers have been forced to share motorcycles or use police cars instead.

Serco mechanics have taken longer to make minor repairs; a one-day oil change now 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 cycles to the shop, the source said.

The mechanics "should make sure every nut and bolt is tightened and the tires have adequate treads, but they just change the oil and send them out," the source said.

Fleet manager Antonio Rouse said he was not aware of the backlog and would have to check into it.

SOD Cmdr. Jose Acosta referred all questions to fleet maintenance.

In addition to the 20 motorcycles, about 120 of the department's 1,300 police cars are awaiting repair or service at the fleet maintenance facility at West Virginia and Montana avenues NE. Parking at the shop on Wednesday was so tight that officers had to use the driveway; yesterday, cars awaiting repair were parked on the new-car lot.

"You could not get on the lot," an officer said Wednesday. "The are double- and triple-parked. They are overwhelmed."

Mr. Rouse, who has been the fleet manager for three months, said he noticed the overflow of cars Wednesday, adding that the garage sometimes takes in more than a usual number of vehicles but not that many.

"It happens once in a while where we have a backlog," Mr. Rouse said. "I don't know if it was that we were still in a state of emergency with terrorists and [last weeks anti-war] demonstrations."

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 to motorcycles and police cars.

Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey ordered the contract rebid May 10 after The Washington 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 rebid.

The Times reported the police department had managed the contract poorly since hiring Serco two years ago. A General Services Administration audit found that the department had mismanaged the contract.

The police department is conducting a performance audit of fleet operations.

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