Police Motor Units
The History of Motorcycle Law Enforcement

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Oceanside Police Department


 

 

The sharing of information between agencies is an important part of controlling crime and kepping the community safe.  In downtown Oceanside during the 1940's MPs from the nearby Camp Pedleton Military Police Department speak briefly with an unidentified Oceanside motor officer on a Harley-Davidson.  The MPs initially patrolled the city in World War II - era Jeeps, the military police cars.  The MPs wore black armbands with white lettering.  The Oceanside shoulder patch on the motor officer, adopted something during the 1940s is the only design ever used by Oceanside police.

Photo provided by Arcadia Publishing from the Book "Images of America Oceanside Police Department"

 

Motorcycle officer Bill Hoople patrolled aboard his Indian four-cylinder motorcycle after he was hired on May 12, 1938.  Unlike motorcycle officers today, motor officer Hoople did not benefit of a protective helmet or other protective gear, a police radio, or roadside service should his bike breakdown.

Photo provided by Arcadia Publishing from the Book "Images of America Oceanside Police Department"

 

Police officer Jack Leonard is pictured here in 1942, sitting on his Indian police motorcycle; he was hired by the department sometime the same year and resigned on October 1, 1943.  Leonard wanted to trade in his motorcycle officer's wings, seen here, for a set of aviator's wings and pursue a career in aviation with the military.

Photo provided by Arcadia Publishing from the Book "Images of America Oceanside Police Department"

California winters aren't very cold, unless you are riding a police motorcycle in the dead of night.  These gloves were worn by Capt. Harold B. Davis in the 1930s.  They provided warmth from the harsh winds and protection should the rider fall to the ground.

In 1937, the police department was nine men strong, Pictured, from left to right, outside the old police station located at 305 North Nevada Street, are police chief Warren Paxton: Ofcs. Harold B. Davis. Fred Sickler, Fred Stoner, John Martin, Ernest Taylor, Arthur Pollard, and John Todd; and Traffic officer Guy Woodard on the Indian motorcycle.

Pictured here in the 1980s are two of Oceanside most identifiable symbols - the pier, which is able to withstand rough storms, and Dennis Thornton, a seasoned police officer, able to withstand the storms of life.  On a sunny Morch morning in 1998, Officer Thornton responded to a report of a hit-and-run collision in which one party had not exchanged information and fled the scene.  The second party pursued the first driver to his home.  The fleeing suspect was in the house and refused to come out.  While Officer Thornton began to investigate the collision, the suspect abruptly came out with a .38-caliber handgun and shot Officer Thornton once in the face.  Severely, wounded, Officer Thornton, required numerous surgeries to repair the severed nerves in one of his ears.  It caused permanent hearing loss.  Thornton returned to work in Novermber, but the hearing loss proved to be a safety rick, forcing him into early retirement.  Years later, other medical conditions directly related to this unprovoked attack would begin to show themselves as Officer Thornton grew older.  Officer Thornton's attacker was tired and convicted of attempted muder, but the case was later overturned.  The suspect was retired and second jury found the suspect guilty of attempted murder.  Officer Thronton continues to work aas an investigator for a private law firm in San Diego, keeping a good attitude about his profession and remaining proud.  Thronton recently made a light-hearted comment saying " Knowing what I know today about what was going to happen to me on March 11, 1998, I wouls still become a police officer. I just wouls have called in sick on that day!"  

This late-1980s photograph features an unidentified traffic officer.  Traffic duties included speed enforcement with the use of a handheld radar gun.  In most surveys, the No. 1 concern or complaint for citizens is traffic enforcement and speed. Oceanside, like most major police departments, maintains a separate section within the police department dedicated to such concerns.  Officers, going in and out of traffic, identify problems and try to solve and decrease violations.  Each time an officer stops a car on the roadwa, that officer's life and personal safety is put in danger by the "5,000-pound missiles" - motor vehicles - speeding by.

The Oceanside PD has used motorcycles since the 1930s when Ofc, Warren Paxton patrolled the city.  The department stopped motorcycle use in the late 1960s but started again in 1978.  Motorcycles allow officers to get to the scene of a trffic collision or other incident quickly, putting law enforcement on target when they are needed most - at the onset of a problem.  This image from the late 1980s depicts motor officers Ron Shedd (Foreground) and Gene Fernandez.  Oceanside motor officers from bygone years did not wear helmets, but the patches on their sleeves haven't changed much in 50 years.  Tradition is upheld in police work and ties these officers to the pioneers of their profession.

 


Photos and Information provided by The Oceanside, CA Police Department and Arcadia Publishing.