CHP Chooses Harley

May 23, 2014

All Posts, News

The California Highway Patrol is replacing the BMWs in its patrol fleet of 415 motorcycles with Harley-Davidson  Electra Glides.

At the turn of the millennium the CHP was riding Kawasaki KZ1000s. The police force replaced the Japanese bikes with BMW R1100s. That BMW model is the choice of more than 450 American police forces including the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s and the San Diego Police Department. BMW will begin selling a new model, the BMW R1200 RT-P K-59 to police this July.

In California, Kawasaki still supplies motorcycles to police departments in San Francisco, San Jose, Oxnard and Ventura.

The CHP last bought Harleys in 1989 and until the recent purchases Patrol officers haven’t ridden American motorcycles since 1997.

Oakland HD

The Highway Patrol is buying all the bikes from Oakland Harley-Davidson, a Bay Area dealership that has carved out a niche with police sales. The dealership has two mechanics who work full time at customizing Electra Glides for police departments and has delivered 121 bikes to the CHP so far. The dealership is customizing about four bikes each week. The mechanics install a new wiring harness and electronic gear in the police bikes, upgrade the suspension and add details like a clipboard that fits over the gas tank.

A standard Electra Glide has a base price of $24,239. The Highway Patrol is paying Oakland Harley about $4,100 to customize each of the bikes.

Harley And Police

Steve St. Thomas, Director of fleet and police sales for Harley told the Los Angeles Times that the motor company sells between 4,000 and 5,000 police bikes each year.

“We started selling police bikes in 1908,” St. Thomas said. “Our very first customer, five years after the company started, was the Detroit Police Department. We’ve been at it ever since.” St. Thomas said the sales are more important than the numbers might indicate. “It’s a very strong brand representation when the general public sees a police officer riding a Harley,’ he said. “It influences customers’ purchases.”

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19 Responses to “CHP Chooses Harley”

  1. Duck Says:

    “So; is Harley Davidson going to support Save the Patch, or are they only going to get as close as absolutely necessary, to ensure a continued income from the lifestyle? I think the answer is obvious.”

    Obvious indeed. A bit older now but in case anyone missed it…

  2. Dave Says:

    LOL… I guess I missed that letter too, Paladin.

    I’ve owned a 70’s Honda enduro (my first project bike, never did get it working right), then a Honda V45 Sabre that I later traded for a Honda V65 Magna that needed some work. Then in 1990 I bought a Kawasaki ZX-10 because the Honda dealer refused to deal on a 1000 Hurricane, rode it back to the Honda dealership and told his boss how he just fucked them out of 6k cash. All of these shared garage space with my 1988 Ducati 750 Paso Limited de’ Italia with the dry clutch, which I stupidly sold to a friend who then totaled it a month after I sold it to him. (I warned him about the clutch, idiot).

    These days I am planning on buying another Paso to fix up, and stick it next to either a 1966 New Yorker or maybe a 71 Cuda. I don’t know yet. I don’t want to buy one already fixed up. I want to do that myself. I love pulling stuff apart, tinkering with it, and putting it back together so that it works. Makes me feel like I am still 20 and working on my first car, an old Chevy Caprice with a 402 big block. She wasn’t pretty, but boy she sure could run.

    And as kids, we were horrible hooligans. We did things that make me shake my head and wonder how did we not get killed…


    Peace man.

  3. Paladin Says:


    I guess the folks at Yamaha got wind of you conversation with Harley. Yamaha has always offered a somewhat blacked out version of their Raider. Yamaha calls it the “Raven”. They also offer two chromed versions, they’re the “s” and the “Limited”. Vincent Black Shadows were always all blacked out

    Over the last 49 years of riding, I’ve owned and wrenched on just about every model Harley’s ever made. I switched brands because at my age (64), I’d rather ride than wrench. I still like modifying bikes and cars, but that’s wrenching to create. I’m tired of continually wrenching just to keep something running.

    I grew up and started riding at a time when you were measured by who and what you were, what you rode didn’t matter. Some things just stick with a person. I guess that’s the reason I don’t care where a bike is made or what brand bike a person rides. I have long time childhood friends that still ride their Indian, Vincent, Ariel, BMW, etc. motorcycles.

    As kids, we were pretty nomadic. Because we rode and moved around a lot, we never got the letter from Harley Davidson, explaining to us that if we didn’t ride a Harley, we weren’t bikers and didn’t ride shit.

    Based on the photo journalist works of Jim “flash” Miteff, Danny Lyon, Doug “Q-Ball” Barber, etc., a lot of folks that started riding and rode through the 50s, 60s, and early 70s never got that all important letter from Harley Davidson either.

    Long May You Ride,


  4. Dave Says:

    “It bothers me that Harley Davidson has made millions over the years by their parasitic commercialization of a lifestyle they don’t really support.”

    And yet they would absolutely cry real tears if all of us stopped buying their product and told them “Let those yuppies support you!” They want to be upscale tools, and yet they need our money.

    I only ever asked HD for one thing, one simple thing that I wanted more than anything. I spent my time and money to contact them and worked every angle to speak to someone intelligent, in marketing or design, and pitched an idea; A limited edition street glide, blacked out front to back. I pitched two names, “Blackout” or “Nightglide”, and said I would pay a premium for a factory version of this. The guy on the other end said “No one would buy it, but thank you for your input” and hung up.

    Ok, now ask me how many similar Harleys have been customized to appear this way by their owners?

    Ok maybe I am the only person in the world who likes some things, but the fact that there are so many versions of this HD on the road right now that I cannot even count them all using my toes also – I think this wasn’t a bad idea.

    I could design a more appealing ride than their team, and I think it’s because their team is a bunch of skinny jeans wearing foo-foo boys who don’t know the first damn thing about anything and probably ride an import to work ‘if the weather’s good’.

  5. Paladin Says:

    I really don’t care where Harley’s are made. It bothers me that Harley Davidson has made millions over the years by their parasitic commercialization of a lifestyle they don’t really support. Their latest advertisement states “United by Independents”. Yet; their website pays homage to the enlisted and to Vets., by displaying what Harley Davidson would have you believe is a patched biker.

    So; is Harley Davidson going to support Save the Patch, or are they only going to get as close as absolutely necessary, to ensure a continued income from the lifestyle? I think the answer is obvious.

    Long May You Ride (to those that deserve to),


  6. Austin Says:

    @Dave – Nicely done. I totally agree.
    I was just having this discussion with my buddy. She’s a hard core Republican Navy vet and was ragging my ass for driving a Honda Element. My car was made in Ohio.
    She’s driving a Jeep, made by Chrysler / Fiat. The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee’s domestic parts content is 68 percent.
    I recently traded that Honda for a Volkswagen Jetta TDI, manufactured in Mexico. I’ve been driving it for a couple of months, and took a ration from my mechanic who told me it is the worst car decision (out of at least 50) I’ve ever made. After spending some time with the tiptronic transmission I’ve decided it is not a good fit for me, but I’m really liking the deisel- so I look around and find Chevrolet’s Cruze turbo-diesel four-cylinder which was conceived in Torino, Italy, and is created in Kaiserslautern, Germany. So that will be next. Italian style, German engineering, American branded. Should be bomb.

  7. RtC Says:

    @Dave, Hell of a post, man! Think you’re dead-on. It’s the f’n GOV. that’s
    the problem.
    I remember seeing(in 1999) a HONDA with a sticker on the tank HONDA Made
    in AMERICA 25 years. I had an argument with a couple of dumb-shits about
    the fact that if they went to the HD shop, most parts were labeled Made
    in China,Taiwan or Japan & that if they went to the Honda shop, the
    packages stated MADE in USA. They left, came back & said “I’ll be fucked,
    you’re right.” The world has changed & I don’t fuckin’ care for the changes
    ONE FUCKIN’ BIT. FTF/G/P & the amount of clueless fucks living today.
    RESPECTS to the REAL
    Redwolf the Conchoman

  8. Road Whore Says:

    @ Dave: Excellent post. I think those that are angry at HD are lamenting the loss of a certain way of life, perhaps a certain “Americanism” that no longer entirely exists; but you’re correct…in order to survive companies have to compete in the existing business climate of the times.

    Funny thing…I remember when I was in my teens it was many times considered chic to buy foreign over domestic, in particular when it came to hi-fi systems as one example.

    @ skinny denny: you’s American as apple pie. :)

    Ride Free

  9. Dave Says:

    @ skinny denny

    Officially, you are a citizen of either where you were born, or where you were naturalized.

    Unofficially… who knows? What do you feel like? American? Canadian? Colby Jack?

  10. skinny denny Says:

    Well written post. I’ve got a question. My dad was born in Winnipeg,Manitoba and moved to Los Angeles as a young boy. My mom was born in Alva, Oklahoma. I was born in Los Angeles. Am I American or half American/half Canadian?

  11. Dave Says:

    This is to no one in particular.

    I don’t understand why anyone is so angry at HD.

    What’s imported, assembled, and “made” these?

    I love giving this example for cars; If you wanted to buy an ‘American’ muscle car in production today, which one(s) of the following are ‘made’ in the USA?

    1) Chevy Corvette
    2) Chevy Camaro
    3) Dodge Challenger
    4) Dodge Charger
    5) Ford Mustang

    * the Dodge Charger is a modern version on a once great muscle car previously made in the 60’s and 70’s.*
    * the term “made” refers to ‘built at least 70% from parts and materials manufactured in/by’

    If you ask the salesmen, they will claim that theirs is and the others aren’t. If you check with the NHTSA, examine the plate on the door, or even look under a hood now and then you will discover that only #1 and #5 are actually made in the US.

    But that doesn’t stop anyone from thinking, claiming, or believing that all of them are American.

    Toyota builds the Tundra locally, but no one thinks it’s an American made truck.

    Fans of Victory will argue vehemently that it is not a Canadian motorcycle… But it is. And let’s not even talk about how fans of the new Indian will practically throw down if you dare to suggest that it is anything other than American. If it is, then so is BMW, Toyota, and Kawasaki.

    And when the ‘imports’ start copying HD style in order to sell more product, did anyone care? It was flattering for HD at first, and we riders could laugh about it, but after a while who enjoys someone mistaking their FLHX for a “modified Yamaha custom”? (It happened)

    So why is anyone upset that Harley Davidson has to do the same thing in order to compete? Why is the argument automatically that they are greedy? After bouncing back from near closure I forget how many times, Harley gets faced with competitors copying their style almost so perfectly so they attempt to shift costs in order to offset sales loss. Take the Yamaha Stratoliner Deluxe. It’s cloning the FLHX, dropping some bells, leaving some whistles, and giving you a bigger motor for 5 grand less than the basic FLHX in black. Personally, I feel it even rides better than the FLHX, but I wouldn’t own it. It’s not a Harley, and consequently not what I WANT.

    HD is the only MC company America has left. Unlike Indian, they didn’t close for years, try to re-open unsuccessfully several times, and finally sell everything to a Canadian company who then claimed “Look, we’re American!”

    When you buy aftermarket parts, are you really looking for ‘American Made’, or are you getting that Kuryakyn intake because you like it and think it will look great on your ride? I don’t look at the brand name, I look at the part and then the price tag and decide if that is what I want to use to customize my bike.

    And if it’s hwo much an HD costs, I never hear anyone complain spending $35,000 plus on their new chopper. I can add up the sum of the parts and come up with a number far south of that $35k… But we don’t crucify that guy for making a buck, do we? Isn’t about his blood and passion that went into it?

    Are you mad at HD because you feel the leadership is passionateless? That they don’t care about you, the rider? They polled riders through I don’t know how many mediums (we, my wife and I, got a letter) and then delivered some ideas.

    I don’t like the new prices.
    I don’t like the new engines.
    I don’t like how the RK Classic was dropped.
    I like the new vented fairing on some models.
    I like some of the new colors.

    I like that HD is trying to appeal to a broader audience because even though many of them might be idiots, rich jackasses, or pretty boys who want to look like bad-asses… Some of them might also be the next generation of freedom fighters who will carry on the battle to protect my rights. Some might be the new prospect in your MC who surprises you.

    PS: If anyone wants to be mad, be mad that the government refuses to take care of our veterans, but dares to claim that it can take care of 330 million people using the same healthcare system for both. Be mad that the government wants to tell MC’s what they can wear, because it’s MC’s today and might be you tomorrow. Be mad that the government feels that your right to freedom is what they tell you it is, and they currently don’t think you have the right to complain.

    We can picket HD later. We’ve got bigger fish to fry today.

  12. skinny denny Says:

    Very well put. Your posts are definitely some of the best I’ve seen on this site.

  13. BMW Says:

    First, let me thank all the veterans who have served to protect the United States and survived the experience! Thank you for your service! That said, this weekend is the time that Americans remember those who fell while performing this patriotic and unfortunately necessary duty! Every one of those who fell made the ultimate sacrifice for our country deserves our eternal thanks and gratefulness for their commitment to our country.

    Although the politicians who declare the wars almost never deserve respect, and the politicians’ motives for war are almost always unscrupulous and self-serving, the sacrifices of our veterans and our war dead deserve our appreciation, recognition and gratitude forever! To me, they are as important as my fallen club brothers or pioneer family members and we need to preserve their memory in the same fashion. We have to make sure their sacrifices were not in vain!

    …CHP Chooses Harley…
    I like the fact that the California government is finally spending money here in the United States, but like most politicians’ decisions, the appearances don’t really match the facts. Of all the foreign motor companies, Kawasaki was probably the first to open a plant in the United States, in Lincoln, Nebraska, back in the seventies. I think the police models for the US were built there. (Remember that this was the AMF period of Harley, when they seemed unable to build a bike without problems.) At least some of the parts on my old KZ900 were actually made in the United States as well.

    Today, Harley has “outsourced” almost all of the small parts. In my day, we called these imported parts, but “outsourced” is the corporate-speak for “imported” these days. My FLHX has imported foot pegs, imported electronics, imported wire harnesses, imported crash bars, imported housings, imported switches, you name it. The only American-made parts I have found so far are the new LED fairing marker lights. All other parts that I have purchased from Harley so far are made in Communist China…

    The new smaller “Harleys” will be made at a factory in India. For the specific USA market, Harley will conduct final assembly in Kansas, in order to maintain the illusion of a loyal American company. Of course, their only true loyalty is to the American dollar — which determines executive compensation…

    I have to wonder what our deceased veterans think of the “all-American” Harley Davidson company buying parts from factories owned by the Communist Chinese “People’s Liberation Army”. To me, it is as if the current Harley company management was desecrating the graves of those heroes. Will future veterans appreciate the results of today’s decisions…the strengthening of the People’s Liberation Army? Somehow I doubt it very much.

  14. Road Whore Says:

    Crazy fucking skills by the pigs on bikes, gotta give ’em that. Now, if their people skills matched their riding skills…

    When I bought my Honda arguably I bought an “American” motorcycle: at that time Honda had a plant in America, employing Americans, and the bikes were assembled here. They have since closed that plant and moved operations back overseas.

    If I ever wear this one out (Doubtful: she has over 92,000 miles and runs like a scalded-ass ape and never had one glitch.) I would buy a Harley because even though it is assembled with parts made in other countries (as I presume all bikes are now to one degree or another) the factory is still here in the good old US of A and they employ American workers and that’s American enough for me (As I check the time on my Casio watch to see if I have time to make a photograph with my Nikon camera before I come in to watch my favorite show on my Toshiba television.).

    The (once again) resurrected Indians I’m not overly fond of style-wise. Every other manufacturer I almost despise (including Honda, now)…their bikes don’t look like bikes…some of them look like spaceships or some damn thing. A Harley still looks like a motorcycle, IMHO, should look.

    So, when I win the lottery it’s off to the stealership I go for a new Switchback. As American as it’s going to get, I guess.

    Ride Free

  15. Paladin Says:


    Harley forks and shocks are made by Showa (Japan), crankcases and flywheels are cast in India, wiring harness from Taiwan etc. Most of the components that make up a Harley are sourced from other countries. The assembly of those parts are done in this Country at the moment.

    Long May You Ride,


  16. Grumbler Says:

    @Phuquehed – All you have to do is eyeball the shitloads of parts hanging on the wall at your local MoFoCo dealer and see whether the blister pack or box says made in china, taiwan, japan or wherever.

    Whenever you buy replacement parts from the dealer, chances are good that the package doesn’t say made in the USA. That said, it’s a global company that has no qualms about using foreign suppliers. They’re not the only one.

    Triumph, for example, is a resurrected British brand with its headquarters and base of operations in Hinckley, England. However, Triumph has three manufacturing facilities in Thailand. One factory produces chassis components and fuel tanks. Another casts most of the engine parts, and the last one, an assembly line, also fabricates plastic parts and bodywork.

    Nonetheless, regardless of the percentile of foreign parts inna Harley-Davidson, it’s still an American motorcycle.

  17. Phuquehed Says:

    I’ve read that before here and there on the ‘net, but not one person has yet cited any kind of source proving if any of it is true (I know that H-D’s do have quite a few foreign parts, I’m saying for the ‘which is more American’ thing), how much of it is true, how many parts and which ones for *any* so-called ‘American’ bike. So until someone can come up with something more concrete than just ‘saying’ it’s so, I always remain skeptical of anything anyone says on the subject.

  18. skinny denny Says:

    Modern day Harley-Davidsons contain quite a few foreign parts. Brake components, suspension components, electric components, etc. are sourced from foreign countries. I hate to burst your bubble JJ, but a Victory is actually more “American” than a new Harley-Davidson. The new Indians I’m not sure about, but I’d guess they contain less foreign sourced parts than a new Harley-Davidson. Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone.

  19. jj solari Says:

    now if they would just trade the current chp anti american personnel for pro american personnel it would be a total made-in-america-for-americans makeover! yes!

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