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Sheriff's Dept. proposes motorcycle task force

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

During the early part of his career, Clarksburg Police Chief John Walker was one of the officers who occasionally patrolled the city on a motorcycle.

Although the department only had one of the two-wheelers, it was useful on traffic patrol, especially in reaching the scene of a wreck on narrow city streets.

That unit has long since been retired, but now the Harrison County Sheriff's Department is proposing the creation of a county-wide motorcycle task force.

Sgt. Ed Martin recently proposed the plan to county commissioners, who said they would consider it. The motorcycle task force would be comprised of officers from the county, Bridgeport and Clarksburg, and would patrol highways around the county.

But staffing problems with one of the departments might nix the plan before it gets off the ground.

"It's a terrific idea, but we just can't do it right now," Walker said.

The Clarksburg department currently is short staffed by three officers. Five new patrolmen recently graduated from the State Police Academy training course, but will ride with Field Training Officers at least until the end of this year.

Under the plan, the departments would join forces to seek grants for the purchase of two police motorcycles for the force.

But the shortage means Clarksburg cannot afford to spare officers for a task force that would help patrol the whole county, Walker said.

"We've got to take care of Clarksburg problems first," he said.

"It's kind of like a canine unit: There are benefits, but you have to weigh them against the costs," Walker said.

But the plan is worth considering because of the unique benefits motorcycles provide, Bridgeport Police Chief Jack Clayton said.

"We're interested in looking at it," Clayton said. "I think there are some practical applications for motorcycles, like getting through (traffic) congestion to get to where a bottleneck is."

Although Bridgeport never has had a motorcycle patrol, Clayton has had bike experience, he said.

"Fairmont had some when I was with them," he said.

"I think it could work using the task force approach -- if we had two or three of them out there just concentrating on traffic patrol."

Walker also recognizes the benefits of motorcycle units.

"You can certainly get through traffic to get to an accident a lot easier," he said. "The worst part about them is that they are more dangerous."

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404 or by e-mail at pdarst@exponent-telegram.com.

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