- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - Lt. Heath Haalck has been through some intense training during his 25 years serving on the Kokomo Police Department.

He perfected sharpshooting at a sniper school. He learned the subtle tactics needed to handle dangerous, extreme situations during SWAT academy.

But the hardest training of all? Learning how to properly drive an 850-pound two-wheeler as a motorcycle cop.

That’s what around 15 law enforcement officers are learning to do this week in Kokomo during an intense two-week training camp being held in the parking lot of a former Delphi plant on East Boulevard.

The training is part of Northwestern University’s Center for Public Safety, which also offers courses to law enforcement agencies on crash-scene investigations, hostage negotiations and traffic control.

Rick Humphreys, a chief instructor at the school who served for decades as a motorcycle cop with the Wisconsin State Police, told the Kokomo Tribune (https://bit.ly/1lGaZX2 ) the school is right up there with the FBI National Academy when it comes to preparing officers for the road.

That’s not as easy as it might sound.

On Tuesday, patches of elaborately arranged orange cones dotted the large parking lot as law enforcement agents from all over the world cruised around on gleaming-white Harley Davidsons, learning to tame the sometimes unruly and fickle machines.

Instructors tried to describe how best to do that: Keep your feet on the floorboards. Don’t look at the ground when you’re turning. Feather the rear brake, don’t slam it.

Even with the tips, most of the cyclists ended up turning the Harleys on their side during a training session on how to navigate tight turns at a crawling speed.

Haalck watched from the side as the officers drove the turning course, anticipating when a driver was about to slam a cone or drop the bike. He was always right.

But it’s easy to know when a driver makes a mistake when you’ve made them all yourself, Haalck said. After all, he did the same course himself two years ago when he took the class.

“That was me,” he said, pointing to an officer who just tipped his cycle. “Real tense. It was a kind of fear-of-the-unknown thing when you first start. But after the first week, it started to click.”

Haalck is having a second go at the school this week, but this time around his training is focused on becoming a motorcycle instructor. Kokomo Officer Ty Solomon was also there to become a certified instructor.

For instructor training, it’s a three-week course. After graduating, Haalck and Solomon will be ready to teach the ins and outs of safe driving to new motorcycle officers in the Kokomo Police Department.

There are currently nine officers who use the department’s four motorcycles for patrolling, he said.

Stephen Bernard was also at the school to become a certified trainer. He’s the acting sergeant of police from Trinidad and Tobago, a small island country off the northern edge of South America.

Bernard flew to Kokomo to participate in the school because it’s one of the best in the world, he said.

He’ll be taking his expertise back to the islands to train military officers, police and others from law enforcement agencies there to conduct patrols, escorts and parades.

For Bernard, becoming a proficient, skilled motorcycle officer is all about practice, but he said there’s also a kind of Zen to mastering the powerful two-wheelers.

“You and your motorcycle have to become one,” he said.

Other international officers taking the course included two police officers from Brazil.

This is the first time the elite training school has come to Kokomo. Haalck said he requested the training course to come to the city two years ago after he completed it the first time, but the waiting list was so long that it couldn’t come until this week.

Haalck said serving as a motorcycle officer is one of the most dangerous jobs there is, since there’s such a big potential to get hurt.

During the school’s last training class held in Ohio, he said, someone tipped a bike and broke a leg.

Humphreys said he’s seen some pretty nasty motorcycle crashes during his decades in law enforcement. Those experiences have made it clear that motorcycle cops need serious training before they hit the road.

“With three days of training, you find out just enough to get yourself hurt,” he said. “With a week, you’re just getting into it. You need at least two weeks before you can really handle a bike, because you can’t fight a motorcycle. It always wins.”

Even though it was a two-year wait to get the training course to come to Kokomo, Haalck said he’s glad it finally made it. The training he and the other officers are getting this week is keeping everybody out on the road safer, he said.

And now that the training course has been set up in Kokomo, Haalck said the police department will keep training local motorcycle cops even after the school leaves.

“We can keep our skills sharp out here,” he said.

“This is giving these guys from overseas a good taste of what Kokomo is like,” said instructor Humphreys. “It’s also a chance for them to interact with cops from the U.S., and vice versa.”


Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com

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