Good occasions movement freely in Milwaukee. Thousands and thousands of hangovers owe their existence to Brewtown, as do numerous decibels of V-twin enjoyable. It stands to purpose that Harley-Davidson’s birthplace additionally has one of many oldest bike police models in America.
The Milwaukee Police Motorbike Unit fashioned in 1910, simply seven years after H-D’s founding. Its first Harley had one cylinder, displaced 30ci, and had white rubber tires. They will need to have appreciated it. At this time, 109 years later, nothing however Harleys have rumbled beneath motor-unit officers. What wouldn’t it take to modify to a different bike?
“An act of God,” officer Dave Lemanczyk says.
Somebody floated the concept 20 years in the past, albeit briefly. The motor unit examined a BMW, however when metropolis corridor discovered, the concept was rapidly quashed. The destiny of the take a look at bike is unknown.
At this time the 55-bike fleet calls a facility on West Vliet Road residence. It shares area with the SWAT unit. The constructing dates to the early 1900s and is the oldest functioning police constructing in Milwaukee. Prohibition-era arrestees had been dropped off and processed right here. Notable alumni? Strive John Dillinger.
The Milwaukee Police Motorbike Unit counts 44 officers in its ranks, together with one present feminine officer. Some are second-generation. Officer John Kulmann’s father was a motor-unit officer in Milwaukee, whereas Sgt. Roberto Colon’s uncle was a motor-unit officer in Puerto Rico. Kulmann vividly remembers the sight of his dad’s bike within the storage.
“It was simply one thing you had been born and raised with,” he says.
Kulmann’s father backed up one in all Colon’s first foot chases, and Colon nonetheless remembers the thundering Harley because it cornered the suspect in a south-side alley. He entered the motor-unit program shortly thereafter.
“Much less cash spent on repairs means more cash for security gear. But it surely’s additionally the pleasure of possession.”
Remarkably, officers are liable for all bike upkeep, and a few repairs are even accomplished by officers, led by Lemanczyk. It’s partly for price range causes. Much less cash spent on repairs means more cash for security gear. But it surely’s additionally the pleasure of possession. Not like selecting a random Crown Vic from the station lot, every bike belongs to an officer. Every is outfitted and optimized for an officer’s physique and style. Do they lend their bikes out to different officers?
“We don’t like to try this,” Lemanczyk says.
Salt is an enormous drawback. The bikes get routinely washed within the heated storage. Motor-unit bikes reside on metropolis streets, not highways, so wheel bearings are frequent victims of potholes and winter-scarred pavement. Not fork seals, although. The Harley models are good for about six years. Bikes are sometimes saved in service for about three to 5 years earlier than being traded in for newer fashions. The 2012 fashions make up a lot of the fleet, however are due for substitute this yr.
“Three or 4 years is the magic quantity. After that, they begin consuming by way of the price range,” Lemanczyk says.
Officers wire the bikes for police radios, sirens, and auxiliary energy for laptops. They commonly devise their very own methods for baggage hardware. Gear designers study from the motor unit. The laptops within the trunk are connected with a “Milwaukee mount.” Different gear is timeless, with some sirens relationship again to the 1950s.
“In the event that they’re nonetheless good, we maintain utilizing them,” Lemanczyk says.
Winter duties are mild for the motor unit, with officers reverting to automobiles, or “cages,” for obligation. However even in winter, visitors element for greater occasions corresponding to Bucks video games put bikes on the highway. Some get pleasure from trip of the saddle, however for others the itch to journey gained’t wait until spring.
“In February I begin getting requests to take bikes out every day,” Colon says. Californians, take observe.
The storage is surgically clear, with a lone SWAT car maintaining the bikes firm. A tiny workplace on the southwest nook of the constructing is the place suspects had been as soon as unloaded from police vans. Now it’s an unofficial lounge. Authorities-issue furnishings sits subsequent to officers’ snapshots, souvenirs, and a framed photograph of a 1968 riot arrest. These partitions have absorbed hundreds of tales from reverse sides of the regulation.
Milwaukee has greater than its fair proportion of crime and challenges. However motor-unit officers see themselves as extra than simply cops. Additionally they present neighborhood outreach.
“You’re way more approachable,” Lemanczyk says. “You’ll be at a purple mild, and somebody will roll their home windows down and joke, ‘Hey, wanna commerce?’ ”
Requested if the unit had a message for trouble-minded guests, he merely smiles and says, “Return to Chicago.”