Kansas dept. ditching "CHiPs" bikes, getting hogs

By Dion Lefler
The Wichita Eagle

SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. -- So long, Ponch and Jon.

Hello, Wild Hogs.

The Sedgwick County sheriff's office is retiring its Kawasaki KZ1000 police cycles the bike made famous by the 1970s TV series "CHiPs" and replacing them with modified Harley-Davidson Road Kings.

On Wednesday, the County Commission approved spending $84,000 to buy six new police bikes from Alefs Harley-Davidson.

The sheriff's motorcycle unit works traffic enforcement and special duties, representing the department in parades and escorting visiting VIPs, including the president.

Sheriff's Capt. Bruce Morton acknowledged that Harleys have acquired a certain "outlaw" reputation at odds with police service.

But he also noted that Harley-Davidsons were the dominant motorcycles of law enforcement until the late '70s, when actors Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox rolled out the Kawasakis and became America's favorite if fictional California highway patrolmen.

"I think the TV show 'Chips' had a lot to do with Kawasaki being adopted (by real police departments) years ago," Morton said.

But for his money, Harley beats Kawasaki on durability and quality control, he said.

Commissioner Kelly Parks, a former Valley Center police chief, said Harley Electra Glides were the workhorse of the motorcycle unit when he worked in Great Bend in the early '70s.

He said he's pleased to see the brand returning to law-enforcement service.

"I think that's a good deal," he said. "I look forward to seeing what they'll do for the county."

The county plans to sell the retired Kawasakis on a government auction Web site, www.govdeals.com [http://www.govdeals.com].

Copyright 2007 The Wichita Eagle

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