Practice What You Preach

A group of my heroes reminds me once again that we lead by example, or not at all

By David Kinaan  |   Jun 8, 2015

A few years ago, while teaching a Certified Motorcycle Training Officer (CMTO) class at the California Highway Patrol’s Motorcycle Academy, I spent a fair amount of time instilling in the new training officers the need for them to lead from the front.

I explained that by earning the status of a CMTO, they were promising to always display the level of good judgement and proper procedures expected from good training officers. They were promising to keep their motorcycles clean and in good repair. They would be expected to always maintain their uniforms looking sharp, and so on. From then on, the other motorcycle officers of their squads will look at what they were doing to see the standards the CMTO was setting, and emulate that. At their Area motorcycle training days, the CMTO will be expected to not only lecture the patterns and techniques, but also to demonstrate them. They will be expected to talk the talk and walk the walk. The CMTO will always be under the watchful eye of the other motorcycle officers, and should hold themselves to that higher standard.

Although I believe they all understand and willingly accept the added responsibility. The point I was making was really driven home by about a group of retired CMTOs who showed up at the academy that day.

Class Acts
It was early in May, and a six retired CMTOs I had worked with in my earlier years as a young motorcycle officer in Los Angeles had ridden to the CHP Academy to participate in the Peace Officers Memorial events in Sacramento. These were some of the heroes who had taught me about being safe on a motorcycle and about what it ment to be CHP motorcycle officer. Though most of them were close to 70 years old, they had all ridden to the academy from all around the western United States. They had taken a break from the memorial events and came out to visit the Motorcycle Training Unit.

After sharing a cup of coffee with them, we rode out to the motorcycle training network to watch some of the class. As we rode out, without me saying anything, they fell right into a single-file line. When we arrived at the network, I parked on the parade ground, next to where the CMTO students were in the cone patterns. Each one of the six retired riders rode around behind in the rider in front of them, snapped off a 90-degree pull-in, and parked in a perfect line. The spacing between the motorcycles could not have been better if there were marks on the ground showing them where to park. They all climbed off their motorcycles on the high side, the side opposite the kickstand, and turned their handle bars toward the low side, demonstrating they all knew how to dismount the motorcycle.

I called the class over to meet these exemplars and to let them see what I had been talking about. Even in retirement, these CMTOs are still displaying the good judgement and proper procedures they taught and displayed throughout their careers. The students in that CMTO class had a rare opportunity to see and visit with some of the true pioneers of the current CHP motorcycle program. They shared stories and memories of the combined experience of about 150 years of riding CHP motorcycles.

I still meet with these guys every May for the Peace Officer Memorial at the CHP Academy, and we often talk about the importance of practicing what you preach and being that role model for your motorcycle squad. But most importantly, we talk about the importance of staying on top of your game while riding. Even though none of us is riding enforcement motorcycles anymore, the skills we learned and taught continue to keep us safe while we ride.

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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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