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Police Motor Units
The History of Motorcycle Law Enforcement

 "Virtual Museum"

 

 

 

 

Minnesota State Patrol


The History of the Minnesota State Patrol Motorcycle Unit

1929
·         Minnesota State Legislature creates the Highway Patrol in response to the boom in automobiles.

·         The first chief was Earle Brown.

·         Initial force was comprised of nine men, including Brown.

·         One of Chief Brown's core values: "They must be courteous in all contacts with the public." That's something that is still stressed today.

1930
·         Henry Ford’s Model A was the standard patrol vehicle in the winter. Patrolmen exchanged milk cans full of hot water for heat.

·         In the spring, summer and early fall, troopers patrolled on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, which they were required to supply themselves.

·         The early years of the patrol were spent on “goodwill work” — courtesy patrols to help motorists in difficulty. Enforcement was mostly limited to warnings.

·         Officers worked 12-16 hours per day, seven days per week, with one day off per month for a maximum pay of $150 per month.

·         Chief Brown almost lost his job when he and another highway patrol officer chased and subsequently arrested three individuals who had robbed the Elk River bank. We were reprimanded for following them off of the trunk highway before making the arrest," Brown remembered.

1931
First academy to be held at Camp Ripley.
1934
·         First patrolman killed in the line of duty: William Kozlak.

·         Patrol was authorized to enforce speed limits on trunk highways.

·         Many motorists arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (despite prohibition.) The DWI cases were written up as “careless driving.”

·         The original trooper uniform — long gray coat, riding boots, gray knee-high pants and eight-corner hat — was replaced by maroon and gold uniforms. The change was made to honor the University of Minnesota football national championship team.

1943
The State's radio network begins to take shape with the construction of two radio towers
1948
Motorcycles retired from patrol fleet.
2008
Motorcycles return for metro freeway traffic enforcement. They are used for three years before being retired.
1930 Harley-Davidson

 This restored 1930 Harley-Davidson is typical of the type used by the Highway Patrol in its early years. This example is owned by the Minnesota State Patrol Troopers Association and is displayed at shows and events throughout the year.

?Special equipment includes a foot operated tire driven siren and a gear driven speedometer with lock feature.

2007 Harley-Davidson
The State Patrol operated motorcycles from its beginnings in 1929 through late 1949.  In 2007, for the first time since 1949, the State Patrol acquired five new Harley-Davidson? Police FLHTP Electra Glide motorcycles, through a one-year lease. No maroon paint option was available from Harley-Davidson, so the five Electra Glides were ordered in black. Graphics hearkening to 1929 were applied.

The five troopers selected for the new motor unit attended a rigorous motor officer training school hosted by St. Paul Police Department. The Motor Unit was based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area and saw regular use on metro freeways from April to November. In addition, they were used for special details throughout the state.

?The program was deemed a success and plans began for purchasing new units for 2008.

 2008 Harley-Davidson
The State Patrol purchased five new Police FLHTP Electra Glides for 2008. The new motors were equipped with a 103 cubic inch Twin Cam engine producing 102 ft.lbs. torque. Stopping power was provided through Brembro brakes with a new antilock brake system. Other features included a six-speed Cruise Drive transmission, final belt drive, electronic throttle control and six gallon fuel tank. Maroon paint still was not on the color charts. Through some negotiations, H-D obliged and painted these five in a special order maroon color. Modern graphics were added to make their identity unmistakable.

Though the Motor Unit was very effective, due to manpower and logistical issues, the unit disbanded in 2012, and the Harleys were auctioned one at a time, thus ending another chapter in State Patrol history. The former motor troopers still proudly wear their motor unit badges.

 

1934 Roy Lichtenheld

 

 

Restored 1930 Harley-Davidson

 

Restored 1930 Harley-Davidson

Restored 1930 Harley-Davidson

Restored 1930 Harley-Davidson

Restored 1930 Harley-Davidson

Restored 1930 Harley-Davidson

2007 Harley-Davidson Police Electra- Glide

2009 Harley-Davidson Police Electra-Glide

 

 

 


Information and Photos provided by the Minnesota State Patrol