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Salt Lake City Police Department Motorcycle Squad Trains to Find the Best of the Best

Bob Nelson

The Salt Lake City Police Department Motorcycle Squad is in the middle of its annual two-week Motor School for officers who want to join this elite group.  The officers are training 10 to 12 hours per day at the Utah State Fairgrounds Parking lot.

Officer Thomas Wind is the lead instructor this year. He says the school opens with about a dozen candidates for the squad but even good riders drop out due to fatigue and minor injuries. Wind says they hope to add up to four new officers to the squad.

I don’t want to let them know but sometimes we, we do have it almost kind of picked out, who you think is going to pass. But we’ve also had students couldn’t even ride the bike straight for 50 feet and then by the end of school they’re one of the top notch riders," says Winds. "It’s just…they need to buy into what we teach them. They do that and they can pass,” Wind says.

Officers practice what they call “The River”…orange cones arranged to the exact dimensions of a particularly challenging spot along the Jordan River that the squad has to patrol.

Credit File: Salt Lake City Police Department
All the skills the Motor Squad Officers learn in the two week Motor School are the exact same on display during the famous annual parade on July 24th in downtown Salt Lake City.

They’re simulating a U-turn in one lane of traffic or a parking stall where you’re going to have to make that turn without putting your foot down or tipping the bike over," says Wind. "We need to get on our bike, get going, make that turn and get after that violator.”  

Wind says later in the course they practice on the actual river trail and occasionally fall in. He says even though it’s an extra challenge to become a motor officer, they are very effective in traffic because they are small, agile and fast.

“It’s kind of a rush,” says Wind.

There are currently nearly 30 Salt Lake City Motor Squad Officers.

Bob Nelson is a graduate of the University of Utah with a BA in mass communications. He began his radio career at KUER in 1978 when it was still in Kingsbury Hall. That’s also where he met his wife, Maria Shilaos, in 1981. Bob left KUER for commercial radio where he worked for 25 years, and he is thrilled to be back at KUER. Bob and his family are part of an explorer group, fondly known as The Hordes and Masses, which has been seeking out ghost towns and little-known places in Utah for more than twenty years.
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