Seattle, WA Police Department

The History of the Seattle Police Department Motorcycle Unit

The primary duties of the Motorcycle Unit are traffic complaint enforcement, high congestion traffic control and enforcement, accident reduction enforcement, escorts, and special event traffic control. Additionally, motorcycle officers respond to dispatched patrol calls as backup and, not infrequently, as primary officers at crime scenes. Because of their mobility, motorcycle officers are frequently the first units to respond to bank alarms, robberies, fires, and shootings. Escorts, parades, and traffic and crowd control associated with special events are areas that motorcycle officers handle with great efficiency. Motorcycle officers are assigned to geographic districts throughout the city on a daily rotation. The use of traffic districts is intended to give the motorcycle officers a more thorough knowledge of the traffic problems in the varied City neighborhoods and to provide consistent traffic enforcement Citywide. Additionally, the officers establish better rapport and a greater working (cooperative) relationship with the patrol officers in each of the precincts.

Motorcycle officers are permanently assigned their own motorcycle and store the motorcycle at home. Motorcycle officers are operational from the moment they leave their place of residence. This has proven invaluable on more than one occasion when the motorcycle squads have been mobilized on short notice for special events and frequent tactical operations not related to their normal duties.

Motorcycle officers are available 24/7 on a moment’s notice. When weather is such that motorcycle operations are unsafe or imprudent, due to snow or icy conditions, motorcycle officers are assigned to traffic cars. The overlapping shifts with the Traffic Unit squads usually leave enough cars from another shift for the motorcycle squads to utilize. Otherwise, the officers are deployed in whatever patrol cars are available.


Training to become a police motorcycle officer is comprehensive and extremely difficult. Officers in the Motorcycle Unit must successfully complete the Unit’s eighty hour Basic Police Motorcycle Operators Course. Additionally, all motorcycle officers receive eight hours of motorcycle recertification training each quarter. This training consists of a closed course stress/obstacle course at high and low speeds, braking exercises, and a cross country course all designed to force the officer to perform at a level that nearly exceeds their ability. This replicates the frequent split second situations and adverse street conditions that can cause accidents. In addition, all motorcycle officers make at least one two-day training road trip every three years in conjunction with the 500 mile break in of new motorcycle engines.

Seattle Police Department Motor Unit 1918
1929 Seattle Police
Sgt. JJ Hill 1966 (Photo provided by his son James D. Hill)
July 1967 Traffic (Photo Provided by James D. Hill)
Seattle Drill Team
Seattle Drill Team
Seattle Police Drill Team
1968 JJ Hill
1984 Sgt. JJ Hill
The SPD Traffic Unit’s Annual Training and Testing of Vehicles

Information and Photos provided by the Seattle, WA Police Department and by JD Hill. Thank you!!