Last year two motorcycle officers collided while escorting a funeral procession, one was killed and the other injured. Motorcycle escorts may seem benign on the surface yet require extreme caution and skill.
Enter Harry Fisher: The man to ask about motorcycle escort service. In 1975, he founded All Cities Transportation, a motorcycle escort business and has been a member of the Victor McLaglen Motor Corps for 40 years and their team captain for the last 15. If you’ve ever seen a pyramid of stacked riders on TV, you may have seen Harry, since holds the world record of 22 men on one motorcycle. There are about a dozen-motorcycle escort services in California with some offering a security segment, but All Cities Transport is primarily funeral escort. Harry has about 9 accounts (cemeteries) for which he is the primary service provider. “In motorcycle escort everything we do breaks the law and you need to break the law like a professional” Harry states.
We discussed the recent incident involving the two escort officers and Harry explained that typically the officers “Leap Frog” to the next signal or junction, which requires moving much faster than the ensuing traffic. Motorcycle officers often speed between intersections to allow a procession to pass unhindered by traffic lights and then rapidly accelerate ahead of the group and block traffic at upcoming intersections. Once the last car of the procession is through, the officers will accelerate to the next junction, and so on. “This is where it becomes dangerous and exactly what happened to Hawthorne police Officer Andrew Garton who was killed” said Harry, “Motorcycle officers require extensive training on a regular basis and are some of the most skilled vehicle operators on the highway”.
Harry offered to let me ride along with him as an officer for several of his escorts. As a moto-jornalist my job generally puts me on two wheels but rarely in an officer uniform. Harry loaned me the riding gear and escort motorcycle and I went to work for All Cities Transport. He first puts the newbie’s out on surface street escorts since they are more manageable. What seems like simple logistics of maintaining a traffic flow can actually be daunting, especially at freeway speeds. As we all know, L.A. drivers have a reputation for being easily distracted and impatient. Holding back traffic for any reason may anger them, funeral procession or not, so maintaining a cool demeanor and keeping control is a required skill. Harry scrutinizes every applicant when screening potential motorcycle escorts. They are usually suggested via word of mouth; he never advertises. In fact, most motorcycle escort services rarely find the need to. Just like the Victor McLaglen Motor Corps, escort officers need to be completely in sync with each other.
Running about 36 escorts weekly, each ride typically last’s about three hours and an escort officer may do up to three a day. “It’s critical that appearance commands the attention of the general public because stopping traffic in intersections, keeping the procession together and general safety is out primary goal,” Harry states, “ but it’s really much more than that. We need to know the route, help with once at the destination, and a professional, courteous yet commanding demeanor is imperative in this business.” And just who qualifies as a motorcycle escort officer? Anyone - you do not need to be law enforcement in any way shape or form. All that required is an escort license which can be obtained at the DMV. Anybody with a police-style motorcycle, an M1 license and a motorcycle escort endorsement is employable. Escorts are treated as independent contractors but all cities provide insurance while on the escort.
All Cities Transport requirements for hiring are;
Must own a police style motorcycle (Kawasaki Police 1000) in Harry’s fleet
Preferably equipped with a radio but not mandatory
Must have personal motorcycle insurance
Must provide you own attire - shirt, pants, boots, helmet and whistle
Study and learn their rule book
Go on trial escorts
So what can’t a motorcycle escort officer do? First, he can’t look too much like an actual law enforcement officer - black or blue uniforms are not allowed; only light or dark brown uniforms are permitted. Guns are only allowed if one is off-duty law enforcement. Second, having blue or red lights and a siren on the motorcycle is not permitted. Finally, if the escort is not a practicing law enforcement officer, impersonating one in any way, shape or form will put him in the slammer.
Harry M. Fisher, Commander --- P.O. Box 845 --- Bellflower, CA 90706 --- (562) 920-2768