Salute the Badge: What it takes to become a TPD motorcycle officer

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - With the start of spring, you might start seeing Topeka’s motorcycle police more and more.

But what does it take to become a motor-cop?

"A good motor-cop is someone who has a passion for traffic safety, who cares about the community and reducing the number of accidents within the community,” Sergeant Ronnie Connell, the head of Topeka’s motorcycle unit, said.

“Officer Bledsoe does have all those traits, he's the most tenured officer we have in the unit and he definitely has a passion that started when he got in the unit and it hasn't lightened up."

Officer Gary Bledsoe has been with the Topeka police department's motorcycle unit for the last seven years.

Before that, he was a patrol officer.

"It's kind of a family thing. My dad was an under-sheriff, I had an uncle who was a sheriff's deputy, another uncle who was a police chief, so it just kinda runs through our blood," Bledsoe said.

"I fell in love with the motor unit and I plan on staying in this unit for quite a long time … The camaraderie is the most that I've ever seen, ever. We are a very tight family. We do a lot of things together off work, we'll go out to dinner, families get together, you just can't compare it to anything else, except for an actual family."

Bledsoe and his sergeant Ronnie Connell set up a test course Thursday morning up at Heartland Motorsports Park to test the skill of TPD officers wanting to join that family.

Motorcycle police are considered some of the most skilled riders on the road - and Bledsoe makes it look easy - but that only comes with practice.

"If you're not dropping the bike, you're not trying hard enough," Bledsoe said.

Whoever makes the cut here gets to go through a special training course to become a motor-cop.

"Well I've got 24 years in the army reserve, and to do this job in this unit, you have to complete and 80-hour motorcycle operators course. Out of this and the military, that course was the hardest thing I've ever done," Bledsoe said.

"I dropped the bike probably 60 times in two weeks, I had big ole' bruises on my legs from picking it back up, forearms were sore."

This test course isn't just good for recruits.

"Last couple days we're had training, really to kinda knock the dust off ... it's been a long winter, it's really nice to get back out on the motorcycles and do what we enjoy doing," Connell said.

Bledsoe was out there too - working to stay sharp.

“If you don't consistently work on your tight turns and your slow rides, you will lose that skill," Bledsoe said.

"Very important to us to maintain our skill level, so we don't hurt anybody else or ourselves."

The skills he's honing here make him a safer officer on the road - and with him on the road - that makes you safer too.

"We’re just out there to gain compliance of traffic laws. The laws are there to reduce accidents. If we can reduce accidents, that saves lives," Bledsoe said.

Topeka's motorcycle unit rides all year long - rain or shine.

The only time they'll switch from two wheels to four is when roads are icy or snow-packed.