Washoe County, NV Sheriff’s Office

The History of the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Motorcycle Unit

Sheriff Charles P. Ferrel felt it was more effective to have motorcycles to chase down automobiles for registration violations. In 1916, he purchased a few Harley Davidson Motorcycles and E. Russell Trathen was assigned as the first Washoe County Motor Deputy. Trathen went on to become Sheriff in 1930. The motor unit survived until the late 1930’s when it was disbanded for unknown reasons. They were reorganized in 1995 under Sheriff Dick Kirkland.

Initially motor deputies had limited safety gear wearing cowboy style lace-up boots, leather jackets, bear fur mittens and caps. The first uniforms came along in 1925 and at that time, the only deputies that wore uniforms were the motor cops. Riding a mixed fleet of Harley Davidson and BMW bikes for the past few years, the motor unit will be furnished with 8 new Harley Davidson motorcycles in 2010. We currently have 8 deputies assigned to the motor unit which is comprised of 7 men and 1 woman.

Deputy Russell Trathen on his Harley approximately 1920s. Photo courtesy of the Nevada Historical Society

Information and Photos provided by the Washoe County, NV Sheriff’s Office.