May 8, 2009 — With his hands gripping the handlebars and feet planted firmly on the floorboards, Police Officer Aaron Hodge Sr. zoomed around Fort Christian parking lot Friday on one of the Police Department's new all terrain vehicles (ATVs).
"I've made it clear to the commissioner that this one's mine," Hodge joked, as he parked behind a row of gleaming motorcycles and scooters that were also added this week to the department's fleet in both districts. Hodge explained that the ATV will, among other things, give police more visibility in areas like the beach, where it's harder to patrol on foot.
Local police officers helped to customize the equipment, choosing some unique features that would balance safety and comfort with the demands of the job, said Vicky Gomez Christian, VIPD's director of grants and special projects. The new additions were purchased with money appropriated by the Legislature a couple years ago and cost about $303,000, which covers:
–two motorcycles, two scooters, two ATVs and one transport trailer for St. John;
–four motorcycles, five scooters, four ATVs and two transport trailers for St. Thomas; and
— four motorcycles, five scooters, five ATVs and two trailers for St. Croix.
The 800cc Suzuki Boulevard motorcycles get 45 miles to the gallon and have case-guards to protect the officer and his equipment, a wide brake pedal for safety, a warning system — complete with five different tones — that sits close to the handle bars for easy access and, of course, energy-efficient LED lights.
"With less energy consumption, the battery lasts longer, and there's less of a glare so the officers don't blind other drivers," said Erving J. Rosario, motorcycle and marine department manager at Suzuki Del Caribe in Puerto Rico. "We wanted to give the department the best quality equipment, and looking after the safety of the officers was our top priority."
On the scooters, officers will be able to navigate better on local roads, through traffic jams and areas with large crowds, added Police Commissioner James McCall. But before the bikes are assigned out by the local police chiefs, officers have to be specially trained and certified, he explained.
"These aren't toys," District Police Chief Rodney Querrard Sr. said later. "We want to make sure the officers know how to properly handle these things before we put them out there, so not just anyone will be able to take them out."
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.