Motorcycle Training Officers

A good motors trainer requires a rare combination of skills and traits

By David Kinaan  |   Apr 17, 2015

The selection process for any law enforcement instructor, or training officer position, should be approached with great care. Not only is the success of the trainee dependent on the ability of the training officer, but the success of the program—and ultimately the department—is influenced by the training process.

Recently, my 8th-grade daughter came home from school to tell me about her new music teacher. I’d met the new music teacher at the recent back-to-school night and heard about her credentials and degrees. She sounded like a great teacher with a vast amount of knowledge and experience. However, my daughter’s 8th-grade class was not impressed. They were ready to revolt when the new teacher had them play “Duck-Duck-Goose” in music class. My daughter thought the teacher’s approach would have been great for kindergarten students, but it wasn’t appropriate for 8th-grade students.

My point is this: You need to match your instructors with who they will be instructing. The best Field Training Officer is the one who is able to relate to the new recruit, providing input and guidance on all aspects of the job. But that same FTO may not be the best selection for a motorcycle training officer. Motorcycle training is a narrowly focused area of police work and requires a training officer who can develop the enforcement riding skills of the trainee, while respecting the trainee’s abilities as a peer.

Motors Are Different
The goal of any motorcycle enforcement program should be to recruit, train and maintain safe and effective motorcycle officers. Generally candidates for motorcycle duty come from the ranks of officers who are already working police officers. Since they’re most likely already successful in performing the duties of a patrol officer, motorcycle training is simply the task of teaching them how to do the job they already know, safely and effectively, while operating an enforcement motorcycle. It severely narrows the focus of the training program.

The motorcycle training program must first focus on the basic riding skills. The motorcycle training officer will then work to enhance those skills and guide the trainee to make the best decisions while operating the enforcement motorcycle. The trainee will be expected to demonstrate those skills and good judgment in a multitude of situations. Additionally, the motorcycle training officer will be expected to emulate the pride and professionalism of the motorcycle squad, and instill those qualities in the new motorcycle officer.

Just as the selection for motorcycle officers should include a review of the officers performance, the selection of a motorcycle training officer should include the officer’s decision-making and good judgment in addition to their demonstrated skills in handling the motorcycle. The motorcycle rodeo champion does not necessarily always make the best motorcycle training officer. An officer who can demonstrate skills, regularly demonstrates good judgment in carrying out their duties—the one who sets the best example—will make the best motorcycle training officer.

Like the music teacher, motorcycle training officers need to recognize the focus of their role and be able to connect with the new motorcycle officers on a level that respects their ability to do the job. Meanwhile they must still provide the guidance they need to develop into safe and effective motorcycle officers. The motorcycle training officer will need to be someone who has a demonstrated the good judgment and proper skills, someone who embodies the professional image of the motorcycle squad. That’s the person you need to turn seasoned officers into highly capable and effective motorcycle officers.

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David Kinaan

David Kinaan

Sgt. David Kinaan retired in 2012 as the supervisor of the CaliforniaHighway Patrol Academy's Motorcycle Training Unit. Kinaan was an active member of the CHP for 29 years and started riding enforcement motorcycles for the CHP in 1989. He served in the Central Los Angeles, South Los Angeles, Westminster and North Sacramento Areas before coming to the Academy's Motorcycle Training Unit in 2008. Kinaan has published articles on motorcycle safety and motorcycle training in various public safety and civilian media outlets. He also consults with various entities throughout the nation, and provides expert witness testimony, on all matters related to motorcycle operations in enforcement and emergency services. Kinaan is currently a Quality Assurance Technician with Kawasaki Motors Corporation and is involved in the rework modification and testing of Kawasaki's ZG1400 Police Motorcycle.
David Kinaan

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