The History of the St. Petersburg Police Department Motorcycle Unit
The St. Petersburg Police Department Motor Unit began in the ’20’s. Motors were present all the way up to the 60’s. We always rode Harley’s. Officers were selected because they were hard working and self motivated. The motors were usually a spring board for the careers of many motormen.
In the 60’s there was a presidential escort, I believe it was the end of Johnson’s term or the very beginning of Nixon, therefore it was about 1968 or 1969. During that escort Officer Don Leadbeater crashed and was seriously injured. The chief at that time declared that Pinellas county was too dangerous for motorcycles and killed the unit.
In the early 1990’s we changed chiefs to more progressive guys. Chief Curt Curtsinger was open to grants and finding new ways to provide service to the public. A sergeant found a federal drug grant that would provide funds for equipment for innovative means of working street level drug dealers. He wrote the grant for Harley Davidson motorcycles and trained officers to ride them and work dopers. The feds bought the grant and gave the PD the cash for motors. The first 28 motors were to be used only for street suppression. Under pressure from officer Bob Jones, the city bought 3 more motors to be used for traffic enforcement. The modern motor unit was born.
Several years later chief Davis came to power. He got rid of all but 3 motors citing cost. The three that were kept were for traffic enforcement and assigned to the traffic unit. When I made it onto a motor in 2002 Bob Jones was my partner. We both retired after more than 25 years of service last year. We passed the motors on to some younger guys.
BTW, the motors never cost the PD any money to operate. In fact they are free to the PD to own and operate. The citations that motor officers write usually pay for the officer’s salary by the end of the first quarter. It just so happens that many top officials hate motorcycles.
With the big void from the 60’s to the 90’s, there are few old timer motor men around. I got many of the pictures from the kids of motormen that stopped me on the road when I was working. They would tell me that their dad was a motor cop and offer to share pics.
Information and Photos provided by the St. Petersburg, FL Police Department.