Police Motor Units
The History of Motorcycle Law Enforcement

 "Virtual Museum"


2017 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse



Summer of the Police Dark Horse 2017

Part 1

By Steve Tritt



June 30th, 2017 was a normal hot Florida Summer day, or so I thought.  I rode down to the Indian of Fort Lauderdale Dealership to see history in the making.  Indian Motorcycle Company has made the first police motorcycle in 64 years.  As I glided along, I thought about the history of Indian. 

    From 1901 many police departments used Indian motorcycles along with Henderson, Thor and other brands.  It was in 1908 that Harley-Davidson launched its first Police model motorcycles.  Indian was also pushing into law enforcement as well.  Indian and Harley-Davidson had a healthy rivalry through this time and well into the 50s.  This rivalry divided the nation into two groups of American Motorcycle owners.  Indian and Harley-Davidson.   

Then in 1953 Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company ceased operations and discontinued production of all models.  Many police departments used Indian until the late 50s and early 60s.  After that the company was bought and sold several times making small motorcycles, most of which were produced in Taiwan and had displacements between 50cc and 175cc.  The company went bankrupt and was sold again. It was in 2003 that the last buyer went bankrupt and shut down Indian Motorcycle company.  In 2008 Stellican Ltd., a London-based private equity firm, purchased the Indian Motorcycle assets and established an Indian Motorcycle Company manufacturing facility in Kings Mountain, N.C. It was a modest number of Indian Chief units with 105-ci V-twin engines which were produced between 2008-2011, when Stellican sold Indian Motorcycle to Polaris Industries Inc.

As I pulled into the dealership on my Harley-Davidson, I was excited to see the new Indian Police Motorcycle.  I walked into the dealership and met with Alan Cole.  Alan Cole helped start the police Indian side of the house again.  He then walked me over to the Police Motorcycle.  The 2017 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse was parked in front of the Indian Motorcycle desk with the classic Indian fenders behind it. 

The Dark Horse is a sleek high tech motorcycle.  It is a Chieftain with a Thunder Stoke 11 engine which is 111 cubic inches or 1811ccs.  The Ground Clearance is 5.6 inches and the tank size is 5.5 gallons.  Standard equipment are ABS braking, Cast Aluminum Frame with Integrated Air Box; Cruise Control; Driving Lights; Keyless Start; Remote Locking Hard Saddle Bags; Power Windshield; Tire Pressure Monitoring; Blue Tooth and Smart Phone Compatible Input.  

Alan wheeled the Dark Horse out of the showroom and then surprised me.  I would be riding the Dark Horse!  As I put my helmet on, we went over the pre-flight check list, I threw my leg over the sleek dark motorcycle.  I seemed to fit into it perfectly.  The seat was a low seat so my feet were planted flat on the road.  I turned the engine to run and pressed the start button on the top of the tank console.  The Dark Horse thundered to life.  I was surprised by the sound and the smooth idle with no vibration.    I pulled in the clutch, put it in gear, let the clutch out and off I went.  The ride was smooth, the instrument panel glowed red and the gages told me the speed and rpm of the motorcycle. The bike was comfortable and everything flowed. It felt great in the turns and you could feel the power in the throttle.  It was a perfect ride. After returning I was astounded to know that I was the first one to ride the Black Horse Police Motorcycle outside of Indian in 64 years! 

I asked about the performance of the Dark Horse in the law enforcement work.  Police motorcycle are put through a hard day more than a civilian motorcycle.  The start and stops of traffic stops, the tight maneuvering to catch a violator and the hard force on the throttle to run down a speeder.  There is also off road riding and sometimes hopping curbs.  I was told that no one knows that the motorcycle had not been tested yet.  For testing, it will be going to Fort Lauderdale, FL Police Department.  They will be the first police department to use an Indian in 64 years. FLPD used Indians in the 1930s and now they will make history to be the first law enforcement agency to use an Indian since the late 1950s. 

Fort Lauderdale, FL Police Department 1940's

John Brogno owner of Indian of Fort Lauderdale is writing the check for Fort Lauderdale Police Department to use the Chieftain Dark Horse.  The ceremony will be the week of July 4th. 

On the ride home, I was thinking about the Indian and Harley-Davidson.  Can Indian make a police motorcycle that can revival Harley-Davidson?  I think the Dark Horse can do it if Indian can put together a Police Fleet Sales side that is modeled after Harley-Davidson. 

Harley-Davidson has a whole side of the Motorcycle Company devoted to Police Fleet Sales.  Their lease programs with their training divisions makes Harley-Davidson the leader in Police Sales.  The way the lease programs works for example is that a department can lease a motorcycle for $100.00 per bike per month, and at the end of a year or two, Harley-Davidson takes the old motorcycles back and gives them new ones. This part is left up to the dealerships as each has a different lease program.

 If Polaris can learn from its mistakes with the Victory Motorcycle.  Victory was too expensive and very large motorcycle.  It had a hard time breaking into the law enforcement area.  Today there are a few departments that use the Victory Motorcycle.

 If Indian can keep maintenance cost down with a training division it could out-do BMW.  BMW has a good lease program but maintenance is expensive.  If the Indian can handle riding in a wide range of environments it will give Harley-Davidson a good run for its money. Again, this goes back to its performance in the Law Enforcement area and after riding it, I believe it can do just that. 

I look forward to see if the Chieftain Dark Horse can deliver putting Indian motorcycles back with Harley-Davidson as a house-hold name again.  Let’s see if a 115-year rival can be brought back to life.  To Be Continued!!