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.
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.”