POCATELLO — Idaho State Police troopers on motorcycles could soon be patrolling the Gate City and surrounding areas following a request delivered to the Idaho Legislature on Tuesday.
Idaho State Police Colonel Kedrick Wills told the Legislature’s budget-setting Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Tuesday that motorcycle troopers can do traffic enforcement and help out with special events, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
While the agency’s requested budget seeks 10 motorcycle troopers, Gov. Brad Little recommended two in Pocatello, two in Coeur d’Alene and one office specialist at a cost of $1 million for fiscal year 2020, according to the Associated Press.
Tim Marsano, ISP public information officer, told the Journal on Wednesday that added maneuverability of a motorcycle compared with that of a four-wheeled patrol vehicle is the biggest driving force behind the request.
“The utility of a motorcycle in patrol operations is good for several things,” Marsano said. “Here in the Meridian office, we have several motorcycle troopers that are used, especially during dense traffic operations. They have the ability to maneuver through difficult traffic situations better than a patrol car. They can go places that our patrol cars can’t because they are so nimble and small.”
Currently, the Meridian state police division employs the use of seven motorcycle troopers.
Sgt. Jens Pattis is one of the seven motorcycle troopers in Meridian. He has been on the motor team for three years and the motorcycle team sergeant for approximately one and a half years. Pattis has been a state police trooper for 15 years and he says safety is the No. 1 advantage to using motorcycles in patrol operations.
“Not just the safety of the public, motorcycles are safe for the trooper, too,” Pattis said. “We have a much smaller profile so we can sit on the side of the road and not be a nuisance to traffic, unlike a car could potentially be. We can blend in a little bit better, and in terms of maneuverability, we can brake better than any car and we can accelerate better than most cars.”
While the small stature of a motorcycle is a benefit in terms of patrol operations, Pattis said it could also pose additional risks to the troopers who operate them.
“One of the pros is that we are a smaller silhouette, but that can also be a con, too,” Pattis said. “However, we have ongoing training on riding techniques and ultimately what we want to do is not put the public or ourselves in a dangerous situation.”
Marsano said that because state police motorcycles do not have mounted cameras, each state police trooper operating a motorcycle is equipped with a body camera instead. State police currently use both BMW and Harley Davidson motorcycles for patrol operations, Marsano added.
Marsano said motorcycle teams can operate almost year-round, excluding scenarios in which the ground is wet because of rain or snow. Furthermore, Pattis said that in the event the weather prohibits the use of a motorcycle, troopers will still perform their daily duties using a patrol vehicle.
In addition to the request for added motorcycle troopers, Wills also wants to equip all troopers with smartphones for customer service, public relations and productivity, according to the AP, who reported that Little agrees with Wills in that troopers need smartphones. Little is recommending $95,000 for the request.
“The troopers currently use their personal phones for official state police business,” Marsano said. “That may not be the best way to handle things. It’s a cost incurred by the troopers for the data that they might be using and since it is so much a part of how businesses operate anymore, a smartphone is almost a required tool.”
Overall, Little is recommending about $76 million for the agency, with about $9 million of that being federal money, the AP said.