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Thursday, February 22, 2001

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Atop the parking garage at HPD headquarters, Officer Niall Silva
sits on his new BMW R 1100 RT-P motorcycle. The police
department is buying the BMWs instead of continuing
to purchase Harley-Davidsons.

Motorcycle cops dump
Harley for zippier BMW

By Leila Fujimori

Honolulu police soon will cruise down highways on sleek, new $23,869.87 BMW motorcycles, phasing out the heftier Harley-Davidsons.

"These are leaner, meaner, faster," said Tony Burris, general sales manager at South Seas Honda Yamaha BMW, which won the bid for the 20 new police motorcycles.

The Honolulu Police Department unveiled its first black-and-white R 1100 RT-P motorcycles yesterday.

City & County of Honolulu All 20 will be on the road by early April, said Maj. Jeffrey Owens of the Traffic Division.

Cycle City's bid of $16,015.95 for the Harley-Davidson was rejected by the Honolulu Police Department mainly for safety reasons.

The city solicited brand-specific bids for the BMW last year, but any motorcycle found to be equal or better would have been considered.

Chief Lee Donohue outlined the problems with the Harley in a Sept. 7, 2000, letter to the city budget director. He wrote that the Harley-Davidson 1997 police model had a history of wobbling at high speeds, which injured four officers in crashes.

He also wrote that the Harley-Davidson representative could not guarantee the vehicle at high speeds necessary for pursuit, whereas the BMW tested well at speeds in excess of 100 mph.

Police Assistant Chief Rafael Fajardo said the R 1100 RT-Ps anti-lock brakes and suspension make it safe, adding that safety is his main concern.

The Harleys did not have an anti-lock braking system.

Despite price difference, Fajardo said: "The cost of having a BMW overall for the term of its usage is much more economical than the Harley-Davidson."

BMW's three-year warranty and 6,000-mile maintenance plan made it more cost-effective than Harley-Davidson's one-year warranty and 2,500-mile maintenance plan, Fajardo said.

Cycle City Ltd.'s general manager John Winslett was disappointed.

"We understand our bid price was substantially less than the bid cost and with a product we feel is superior," he said.

"Most of the municipalities that used the BMWs have come back to the Harley-Davidson fold," Winslett said. Cycle City continues to provide parts and service for the department.

"As a rider, I go by the safety," solo bike officer Richard Weitzel stressed.

Weitzel and fellow officer Niall Silva went to California to evaluate the BMWs. They later were trained on the bikes.

They are big sellers, used by police around the world and paramedics in Europe, Weitzel said.

Silva said with the department's other motorcycles he's ridden, "you have to muscle the bike a lot more to get it to maneuver the way you want it to."

"We've gotta cut in and out of traffic and chase speeders," Silva explained. "The BMWs execute and maneuver a lot quicker."

BMW specifically designed some of the equipment for the Honolulu Police Department such as the special cruise lights. The new siren system will have public address capability and features four tones, including one that sounds like a fire truck, according to Frank Stevens, a BMW representative.

The Honolulu Police Department currently has 40 solo-bike officers and 65 motorcycles, including the BMWs and some used as spares.

City & County of Honolulu

E-mail to City Desk

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