Police Motor Units
The History of Motorcycle Law Enforcement

 "Virtual Museum"

 

 

 

 

Washington State Patrol


June 8, 1921 was the date legislation authorized the appointment of highway police with the power of peace officers.  The first six patrolmen (Harold Lakeburg, Harry, Harkins, Henry Shuk, William Clark, Eugene Russel, and George Potter) were commissioned September 1, 1921.  The initial appropriation for maintenance of the motorcycle patrol was $70,000.  

 

The first two Highway Patrol directors were called supervisors.  The original issue was a badge, cap emblem and a gun.  It wasn't until 1924 that every patrolman became uniformed.  In 1924, the Patrol made arrangements with a local clothing store, which agreed to provide the same uniform for every man.  Attired motorcycle caps, gray Norfolk jackets, riding breeches, brown leather puttees and boots, the Highway Patrol began to realize the value of good public relations. 

 Motorcycles were on their way out by 1933.  The car which began to replace the motorcycles.  These cars were light, fast automobiles of the panel delivery type, which could be used as a combination patrol car, mobile jail, and ambulance, were proving much more versatile for all-weather work than the motorcycle.

 After being without motorcycles for years, a federal grant allowed the purchase of several bikes (Kawasaki 1000s) for traffic control in 1979.

In 1999 Highway Patrol transitioned to the BMW. 

  

Currently in 2008, Washington State Patrol has 42 motorcycle troopers assigned primarily to the urban 1-5 corridor.  Motorcycle detachments are located in Seattle, Tacoma, Marysville, and Vancouver.  Additional motorcycles are assigned to Kennewick, Bremerton and Spokane.

Motorcycles are highly effective in apprehending speeders and other aggressive drivers, particulary in heavy traffic.  Motorcycles are often the only emergency vehicle able to reach collision scenes and other incidents on crowded freeways with narrow shoulders.

With the northwest as a favorite destination for national leaders and visiting heads of state, WSP motor officers are frequently involved with dignitary escorts.

The Washington State Patrol is recognized as a leader in police motorcycle training.  Motorcycle training is conducted annually at the WSP Academy in Shelton.  In addition to classroom and dormitory facilities, the academy features a 2.7 mile drive course with an off-road environment, a low-speed skill course and high-speed pursuit exercise. 

1928

1928

1928

1928

1928

2008

2008

2008 WSP Motor Unit Group Photo

Washington State Patrol 2015

Washington State Police 2015

 

 


Photos and Information was provided by the Field Operations Bureau of the Washington State Patrol