Police Motor Units
The History of Motorcycle Law Enforcement

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Alexandria Police Department

Celebrates 90th Anniversity

by Ashley Hildebrandt


  The Alexandria Police Department was founded in 1870.  A large part of the department's rich history is the Alexandria Police Motor Unit.  This year, the Motor Unit is celebrating its 90th anniversary. 

     The Alexandria Police Department began its motor unit and its relationship with Harley-Davidson in 1918 with the purchase of one motorcycle for use in answering emergency calls. In preparation for the arrival of the newly purchased motorcycle and an additional patrol wagon, city council appropriated $200 to remodel the police station, then housed in City Hall on North Fairfax Street.
     The arrival of the motorized patrol wagon in March 1919 caused the Washington Post to declare, "With a motorcycle purchased about six months ago, the police department of Alexandria is now well equipped as any similar department of its size in Virginia."
     Throughout the years, the motorcycle unit has changed in size.  In 1922, the city council decided to increase the Motor Unit to three members.  The officers alternated shifts, guaranteeing there was always one motorcycle officer available.  The Motor Unit continued to expand.  In 1950, there were 10 motorcycles assigned.  However, in the spring of 1950, the unit was reduced from 10 to two motorcycles.  These two would only be used for funerals, parades and other ceremonial escorts. 
     Despite this setback, the Motor Unit slowly began to rebuild itself.  Today, the Alexandria Police Department's Motor Unit has 11 members, including a lieutenant and a sergeant.  The Motor Unit is part of the Traffic Section of the Special Operations Division.  These motormen are responsible for escorts, traffic enforcement, perimeter control at emergency scenes, serious crash investigation, ceremonial duties and other assignments as needed. 
     To ensure that officers possess the skills and experience necessary to safely operate the motorcycle while on patrol, all officers are required to complete rigorous training.  Newly assigned officers must complete 80 hours of training before they are able to ride.  All assigned officers are required to complete 40 hours of training on a yearly basis.
     The officers assigned to the Motor Unit recognize they are a part of a proud tradition.  They hope the motorcycle unit continues its success well into its 100th anniversary.
Offcier Lawrence Padgett 1923
Officer Wesley Snoots 1925
Alexandia, VA Police Department 1927
Alexandia, VA Police Department Motor Unit 1950
Alexandia, VA Police Department Traffic Unit 1951
Officer Ed Bass 1962

Information and Photos provided by Alexandria, VA Police Department