Or, more specifically: why are Harley-Davidsons so popular among American police forces given their limited performance?


I was asked this question on a community internet site recently and I thought I’d jump in and answer armed with answer direct from the source, or at least some of them (Police Officers).

Funny, I’ve wondered that about mounted police too.

I’ve Asked Them

I must admit that I ask lots of cops this question of cops on Harley’s just before or after escorted rides. The answers I get are interesting and somewhat varied.

Sometimes The Agency Decides

I must also say that many of the departments and agencies have different programs about the choice of vehicle. Some departments buy and maintain via RFP process periodically and the manufacturer that best fits with their requirements wins the bid. It’s not always about price either. It’s about fleet serviceability, parts availability, the total cost of ownership, lifecycle metrics, etc. In these cases, the cops ride whatever is available on the fleet.

Sometimes The Agency Let’s Cop Choose

Some agencies have provisions for the motorcycle cops to buy their choice of pre-approved police bike. The list will usually include a variety of bikes including German and Japanese bikes along with American police bikes. In this scenario, the cop is matched with the bike of his or her choice out of the approved list and then they look after it and take care of the bike for the useful life of the vehicle.

So Why Slower Heavier Harley’s?

Cops on large decked out cruisers would seem to be at a performance disadvantage in acceleration, braking, high-speed handling, semi-off road, and off-road conditions. That’s just a fact. So why a big Harley?

The top answers from cops themselves are:

  1. It’s what the agency provides. (Contractual obligation) which to me means that Harley is wired in somehow, or there are some hold-over provisions to buy American and Indian or Victory didn’t make the cut.
  2. Many US cops tell me that they simply prefer to be on American bikes. I would have to say that most of these officers are the older more seasoned police officers. Younger cops have a preference for higher performance German or Japanese sans a Harley counterpart.
  3. One 12yr veteran cop in Maryland, USA, told me that he prefers his big Harley for Parade and Crowd Control duties because of the lower center of gravity. He also said the added bulk and weight meant a better chance of survival holding on while going down protected by the crash bars. Apparently, this kind of thing is actually practiced in some places as part of training.
  4. The majestic classic look of black white and chrome just feels right. The super high performance just isn’t necessary. “That’s just the movies”
  5. Because it’s so hard to outrun radios, linked traffic cams, and air surveillance, it makes the point kind of moot to many officers who just want reliable comfort regardless of brand.

I am hoping more officers from more places jump in on this question.


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