The History of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office Motorcycle Unit
By Deputy M. David DeSoucy, Ret
Many within the department believe the introduction of motorcycles occurred twenty years ago in January 1988, who Rancho Cucamonga station became the first contract city to start using them. However that’s not quite the case. California Motor Vehicle Acts of 1913, 1914 and 1915 established the Department of Motor Vehicles and the County Traffic Officers throughout the state. These acts came about as a result of San Francisco establishing traffic laws within the city limits. State legislators took note and realized the need for statewide traffic laws and regulations for the traveling public’s safety. In most counties the new traffic officers were established within the sheriff’s office. Thus Sheriff J. L. McMinn being the top law enforcement official of the county became the first “Top” traffic officer of San Bernardino County.
These early county traffic officers were also deputy sheriffs, as was duly noted on their badges. It is said they rode mostly Indian Motorcycles and were the first uniformed personnel on the department. After al the public had to be able to recognize the traffic officer while performing his duties. With the passing of the California Vehicles Act of 1923, the state started consolidating the county traffic officers under the title of “Highway Patrol” along with legislation to make the vehicle laws and enforcement more uniformed throughout the state. In 1929, the county traffic officers were merged into the newly established California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Eugene W. Biscaluiz was appointed as the first superintendent. It’s interesting to note that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office didn’t relinquish their county traffic officers until 1932. As we know today, the California Vehicle Code was established 1935.
The next period of known use of motorcycles was under Sheriff Eugene Mueller who established the Sheriff’s Motorcycle Posse in the early 1950’s. The posse was composed of non-salaried volunteer reserved deputies who provided their own motorcycles. They performed many of the same duties as the mounted posse along with traffic control. This motorcycle posse lasted well into the 1960’s under Sheriff Frank Bland. Sheriff Mueller also established a Tri-County Posse to be used as a search and rescue unit in the early 1950’s. It was composed of both mounted and motorized personnel. However, the motorized section didn’t last long due to the U.S. Forest Service taking a dim view of motorcycle operations in the mountains.
Today we have twenty-nine “motor jocks” assigned to seven contract cities as well as dirt bikes and quads for off road enforcement and search and rescue. Since 1915 motorcycles have proven to be a very effective tool in traffic enforcement. Ask any motor jock and he’ll probably tell you it’s the best assignment in the department. Unfortunately, it is also one of the more dangerous assignments with loss of two of our own. In recent years Deputy Ronald W. lves and Deputy Daniel J. Lobo Jr. both died in the line of duty as a result of traffic collisions while performing those duties as motor officers.
Information and Photos provided by the San Bernardino County, CA Sheriff’s Office