It sounds a bit tricky to ride an 800-pound motorcycle through a series of tight circles without knocking over orange cones.
But it's one of many tasks a Lodi police motorcycle officer must master before taking to the streets, as Officer Eric Versteeg has learned this week.
The newest member of the motor team, Versteeg has spent the better part of five days going through drills in the Grape Bowl parking lot. The next step will be a rigorous two-week course in Dublin, as well as collision investigation testing.
"All of this training is to learn to turn the bike properly in tight corners and to take evasive action," Motor Sgt. Chris Jacobson said Friday while watching Versteeg maneuver between cones.
Motor officers don't have a beat, as patrol officers do. Instead, they focus on traffic safety, which apparently suits Versteeg: He has received multiple awards for his record numbers of drunken driving arrests.
He hadn't ridden a motorcycle until recently, when he took a class and got his motorcycle license through the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Little experience is actually a good thing, said Lt. Steve Carillo, who used to be a motorcycle officer and helped with the training.
"He didn't have any bad habits," Carillo said. "A lot of people look at the ground. We teach them to look ahead, because where your head points, your bike goes."
Similarly, learning to ride at highway and regular traffic speeds is relatively simple. It's the very slow driving — which officers have to do when helping with crowds, parking and in processions — that's more challenging. Similarly, motorcycle riders can lean when making turns, but sometimes that's not an option for officers, unless they want to hit other bikes and vehicles next to them.
Lodi's four-member motorcycle unit focused on traffic safety, which means they frequently use "the infamous ticket book," Jacobson said. The ultimate goal, he said, is to remind drivers that police are watching and will write tickets, so they need to drive carefully. Motor officers respond to patrol calls when more back-up is needed, and they also investigate vehicle collisions, which are often lengthy and time-consuming.
Motorcycle gear at a glance— Harley-Davidson Road King, equipped with lights, sirens and a seat that adjusts to more easily fit multiple officers. The department supplies them. For training, when officers tip over multiple times at slow speeds, Lodi borrowed a couple older, scuffed motorcycles from the Stockton Police Department.
— Knee-high leather horseback riding boots that come from a company in Nebraska and cost $500.
— Double-layered pants that are also worn by horseback riders and cost $250 a pair.
— Leather riding jacket, including a place to pin a badge, which can cost up to $500.
The police department provides a $1,200 uniform allowance. Motor Sgt. Chris Jacobson said he found a discount on the jacket, but ultimately bought three pairs of pants.
Officers pay for their own personal additions to the motorcycle, such as a net to add a storage area for wind gear, since side bags fill up with police gear. Jacobson also found ways to save money: He bought a boat fishing pole holding tube, which fit on his bike, perfectly holds his flashlight and costs far less than a similar "police" contraption.
Source: Lodi Police Motor Sgt. Chris Jacobson