West Virginia State Police

The History of the West Virginia State Police Motorcycle Unit

State Police are returning to motorcycles for the first time in over 30 years to raise awareness in motorcycle and traffic safety. Troopers will use two Can-Am three-wheeled motorcycles in everything from traffic patrol to parades.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Some state troopers will be trading in their forest green campaign hats for helmets with the purchase of two new motorcycles.

Sgt. Jerry Dornburg, director of traffic records for the State Police, said the motorcycles are aimed at promoting safety. The department was one of several agencies in the state to receive new Can-Am Spyder motorcycles as part of a program sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Governor’s Highway Safety Administration.

“(They) were looking for new and innovative ways to attract the public’s attention and to make them aware of motorcycle safety and traffic safety laws,” Dornburg said. “Once you attract that attention, once you get someone in the door, it’s easier to talk to them.”

Dornburg brought the motorcycle to the State Capitol Complex Wednesday afternoon where Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed a proclamation recognizing May as Motorcycle Safety Month.

The bikes are definitely attention grabbers.

Painted the same dark blue as the department’s fleet of cruisers, complete with gold striping and the state seal decals, the touring bikes have three wheels and are in essence “trike” motorcycles, but with one big difference: they have two wheels in the front and one in the back.

Dornburg, who personally owns a phantom black Spyder, said that style of motorcycle was chosen because it stands out.

“They draw the public in because they’re new and they’re different,” Dornburg said. “It’s got a ton of safety features, too, like ABS (Anti-lock Brake Systems) just like in cars or electronic stability control.”

Troopers add motorcycles to promote safety

Charleston Police Officers Travis Hill (left) and Ray Coleman (right) observe six police officers learning to ride the state’s newly purchased Can-Am Spyder roadsters. The state bought 10 of the bikes to be used in DUI control.

 The motorcycles also have electronic traction control, cruise control, heated handgrips for riders and other amenities. Some of the extras the State Police have added include radar guns, lights and sirens and video equipment.

At a cost of $23,199 each, the bikes were paid for using a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The State Police will use two. Dornburg said several other law enforcement agencies around the state would also be using the motorcycles.

They’ll be used for traffic enforcement, DUI patrols, parades, festivals and as a recruitment tool. The bikes, he said will travel as a pair throughout the state. Right now, they’re being housed at the South Charleston detachment.

“They’re not going to be a ‘look pretty’ kind of thing,” Dornburg said. “They’re going to be used for everything. They’re going to be worked.”

Riders must have a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s licenses before they can undergo the 40-hour certification.

Dornburg hopes to have them on the road soon. The only thing holding them back, he said, was a radar device for one of the motorcycles and for the riders to be certified.

The State Police have not used motorcycles since the late 70’s, Dornburg said. He wasn’t sure what prompted the administration at the time to end the program.

1920’s Left Jesse Wooddell
1935 Sgt. Stanley O Perrine
Trooper E C Guthrie 1935 (Photo provided by family of Trooper Guthrie)
On Right Trooper Leonard Hampton
Photo Provided by Bill Atkins
On Right Trooper Leonard Hampton
Trooper Ambrose and Trooper Ferguson
9.6×6.25″ New bikes for police agencies in W.Va. Travis Crum | Gazette photo

Information and Photos provided by the West Virginia State Police