BAKERSFIELD, CA - The Bakersfield Police Department is reducing the number of motorcycles on the street. It is a safety issue due to recent accidents and deaths.
Five years ago, the BPD had about 30 motorcycle cops. Now, they have eleven and they want to go down to four and reassign those officers by 2014.
Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson said the last two officer fatalities in the department have involved a motorcycle.The chief now says it's time for a change.
"Sad for me to go into disability retirement hearings,” Williamson said “And look at officers who have been involved in motorcycle accidents, who have been injured so bad they have lost their career. No longer (able to) work as a Bakersfield police officer. We have had many of those over the years."
Even though the chief wants to draw down the number of motorcycles, he is not ready to stop using them all together.
"They still have a usefulness until they reach a certain age,” Williamson said. “And, we have been phasing them out as they become aged out. I believe in this fiscal year they will phase out seven more. We will have four left and those will mainly consist of those motors that will be patrolling the river bed.”
Its not just the deaths that are a factor in the draw down.
Since 2007, Bakersfield City Manager Alan Tandy says police motorcycle accidents have cost the city nearly $1.5 million in workers comp claims.
Tandy says a police vehicle accident costs about $6,347 in workers comp compared to $21,561 for a police motorcycle accident.
"Not only is it wrong to injure that many police officers,” Tandy said. “But, we need them on the street not at home recuperating. So those numbers are bad."
We asked both the police chief and the city manager if they were concerned about lawsuits from motorcycle officers, and both said it is a volunteer position and the officers know what they are getting into.