Ride The Pine: Motorcycle Chases Never End Well

Vehicle pursuits are one of my favorite parts of the job. There is nothing like the adrenaline, the simultaneous feeling of control and chaos, and the absolute need to multi-task to be successful. Vehicle pursuits are a dying art really, agencies and supervisors are hesitant to chase a subject when the overall risk is weighed out, which personally I find unfortunate in a lot of cases. One spot I can agree on is that chasing motorcycles is a bad idea.

I’ve never once been involved in a chase of a motorcycle that ended well for the bad guy, and this one had the biggest pucker factor of them all. It was late at night, well after the bars had closed and the city streets were fairly empty. It was winter, but the weather was relatively nice and the roads were dry. I was starting to settle in because it was looking like we had a long uneventful night ahead of us. It’s funny how fast that can all change.

The sergeant involved in this story was at the end of his career. He was closing in on the magic numbers for his pension, but instead of coasting to the end like most he wanted to leave a legacy. The closer to retirement he came, the harder he pushed his guys and he was always right there with them. It was no surprise that he would get into a car chase honestly.

He came over the radio saying he had a motorcycle failing to stop for him. They were on one of the major streets in the city heading towards downtown, moving fast but not insane. I hit my internal switch and went from ready to relax to intensely focused. I repeated what information he gave us, assigned a back up unit, and instructed the other cars to remain free but start towards the area. Our watch commander was already out of his office and in the radio room and told us to let him keep chasing.

I almost did a double take, the boss said we could chase a bike! Awesome! I could feel my heart rate sky rocket and knew it was game time.

The chase moved closer to downtown and crossed onto a street that would end in a “T” intersection at a pedestrian mall, the bad guy only had two ways to go and we had him trapped! We also had an extensive camera system in this part of town. Not only would I work the chase but I’d get to see it end on camera live.

I looked up at the screen with the camera that the bad guy was about to drive towards and saw a blur fly across the screen and a shower of sparks. Before my mind could understand what happened the sergeant was on the radio calling for the ambulance forthwith. The bad guy hit the curbing at the pedestrian mall and went airborne, crashing through a plate glass window while his bike went skidding across the ground.

I grabbed the phone to call the ambulance, but it wasn’t over just yet. Somehow the bad guy managed to get up and run from us. We ended up in a short foot pursuit, but the suspect was pretty banged up and was taken into custody a little way down the street. He ended up at the hospital with relatively minor injuries and was released from the hospital and in the cell block before the end of the shift.

After the scene was cleared up the sergeant came into the radio room, closed both doors, and sat on the desk between me and my partner. We asked him how he was, and complemented him on his demeanor on the radio through the whole ordeal. He looked at both of us and said when he realized where they were headed he knew the bad guy was lost and would crash. He said he saw his entire career and pension flash before his eyes. He told us he would have a great speech at roll call about tomorrow about why we NEVER chase a motorcycle.

I asked him if he would do it all over again. He looked at me, smiled and said “Hell yes, but if you tell anyone I’ll shoot you”.

Ride The Pine is a new special feature written by a veteran dispatcher using the pseudonym Jacob Tyrell. Tyrell has been a dispatcher in a major US city and seen it all over the years. Some of the series will be serious, some funny, and hopefully a little educational. All of the names, phrases, locations, and agency specific information has been changed (and is constantly mixed up) for anonymity.