FULL THROTTLEHoover’s motor scouts are masters of their bikes, and they have the competition hardware to prove it.
By Heather Jones Skaggs
Photos by Dawn Harrison and Courtesy of Colin Nelson
Looking over photographs of himself as a child sitting on his father’s bike, Officer Brian Nelson can’t remember a time where motorcycles were not a part of his life. “I have always had an interest in riding and got my own bike at about age 18,” Nelson says. “I thought I really knew how to ride until I joined the Hoover Motors Unit in 1998, and I found out there was so much more to riding. Very few people can do the type of riding we do, and I found my niche.”
Nelson, now sergeant over the Hoover Police Motors Unit and the primary instructor for the department, leads a team of eight motor scouts that are at the top of their class as an elite force for public safety.
“We train our scouts to ride with an 80-hour training class. They learn to ride the way we want them to ride. The way we as police operate a motorcycle is different than the way a civilian would ride,” Nelson says. In addition to riding safety and operation that a civilian observes, an officer trains with his or her bike as a tool they use day-to-day on the job which requires continuous training and skill building. To say the Hoover Police Motors Unit is specialized could be an understatement. The standards and expectations for the unit are high not only for their performance, upkeep and maintenance of their motorcycles, but also for the officers themselves. “The thing about motorcycles is that they draw attention. Not only do we want the bikes in top shape on the road, we want that officer squared away from head to toe. It is a commitment.”
In July, Nelson, Motor Scouts Officer James Lawrence and Officer Jerry Edwards traveled to Hendersonville, Tennessee, to compete and train in the annual Police Motorcycle Rodeo. The weeklong competition is a chance for officers to not only compete but to train with other officers from around the country.
Competitions are in themselves a training environment, Nelson says. It is an opportunity to hone the officer’s skills. “It is a week-long focused training with a purpose,” he says. “No matter what their skill level, they are learning new skills, getting smoother, quicker. It makes the officer a better rider. They come back with improved skills, and that translates to a safer, more experienced rider on the streets.”
In a job where precision is everything, Nelson points out that this is no pleasure ride – the bike is a tool to do the job. The skills learned and mastered help keep the officer and the public safe.
Hoover has competed in many competitions for many years, but the Hendersonville Rodeo is favored by those who compete. The competition only allows for 50 competitors including the three from Hoover this year. Hoover’s finest competed in individual and team events like the Dynamic Duo Ride, where two officers follow each other through a course with patterns, changing the lead through the patterns. The course is timed, and penalties occur when an officer hits a cone, touches a foot down or drops a bike. There is also a Challenge Run where officers don’t get to see the pattern until it is time to compete. The track can consist of many elements and is timed. It can even feature a teeter-totter.
Hoover Police Motors brought home the gold in a big way by winning all three of their respective individual divisions. They took first place in Team Slow Ride and were first place Overall Team winners.
Nelson and Edwards also took first place in the Dynamic Duo Ride and were the only duo to complete a clean ride with no penalties.
Nelson won first place in the Elite Division and took first place overall at the rodeo and was named “Mr. Rodeo.”
“My favorites are the timed runs,” he says. “It is fun to get out there and challenge yourself. I get in a zone going from pattern to pattern. It is the repetition of the skills that allow this to become second nature, where the officer does not think about riding the bike; he just does it naturally and focuses on the job. Events like this are very important to building the skills.”
Edwards, who was a motor scout prior to joining the Hoover PD last April, placed first in the Expert Division. “Hoover really sees the benefit of going to events like this. Any time you get around the best riders from across the country for a week straight, you bring home ideas and skills to use on the job,” Edwards says.
Even Matt, the department’s mechanic, was on hand and provided assistance. “Lots were impressed with the way Hoover rides and the way we organize.”
Lawrence, who took first place in Novice Division, says the officers get so much out of the events. “I really enjoyed the competition because of the smaller numbers. It works better to get out there and get experience. That is what we are ultimately there to do is to become better riders.”
All three agree that time spent training at competitions like Hendersonville translates to a better officer on the job. “You learn control with your bike, especially with the cone course because it is very unforgiving. If you get out of line even the slightest, you hit one. You also learn what your bike can and can’t do,” Lawrence says.
“In a training scenario it is a cone; in the real world it’s the front bumper of a car or a pedestrian,” Edwards adds. “It also increases confidence in what you can do, what your bike can do.”
For the officers, traveling to Hendersonville and being around different agencies, talking, visiting and learning, is what it is all about. “Winning is fun. The hardware you get to bring home is nice, and it is an honor to represent Hoover. Our focus is the training and the skills that you hone and bring back to the streets you ride every day,” Nelson says.