Snellville cops riding high on Hogs

SNELLVILLE - They are battered, bruised and a little humbled, but two Snell-ville police officers chosen to pioneer the department's new motorcycle unit are ready for the road.

Officers James McDonald and Greg Perry will now patrol the streets on new Harley-Davidsons after finishing a specialized training class on Nov. 28.

Both men said the 40-hour motorcycle class was the most challenging law enforcement course they ever completed.

"We dropped our bikes probably about 100 times a piece, which is standard," said McDonald, who added jokingly that the worst injury was his broken pride.

A daunting basic motor officer course was created for Perry and McDonald in the parking lot of Gwinnett County Fairgrounds by the Lawrenceville Police Department's six-man motorcycle unit. Lawrenceville police have operated a motorcycle unit for the past 18 years and reaped the benefits, said Maj. Paul King.

"When we have traffic tie-ups they are able to maneuver through vehicles or around vehicles where you couldn't do it in a normal patrol car," King said. "They can also be ridden in areas where we might have large events in parking lots or park areas where it would be difficult to drive a car."

The obstacle course included about 400 plastic cones, strategically placed so officers could practice 90-degree turns, weaving and navigating.

"We had bruises and scratches everywhere, but it was worth it to get out here," Perry said while standing proudly beside his motorcycle outside of Snellville police headquarters.

Perry said he volunteered to be a motorcycle cop because he was on a similar unit years ago at the Stone Mountain Park Police Department. McDonald said he used to own a Harley Fat Boy and wanted to experience the enjoyment of riding again.

City officials will be watching to see how beneficial the motorcycles are for policing. In time, they plan to evaluate the success of the fledgling unit and consider adding more bikes to the fleet, said Snellville Police Chief Roy Whitehead.

So far, the advantage of having motorcycles has more than covered the $150 monthly cost of leasing them, Whitehead said. McDonald and Perry have arrested several people on outstanding warrants and written about 30 speeding tickets a day.

"They are just able to do things you can't do with a car," Whitehead said.