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Motorcycles Back on Tenn. Department Beat After 23 Years

Maryville, Tenn. Police Department is using motorcycles in traffic enforcement for the first time in 23 years.

Motorcycles were regularly used by Maryville officers prior to Feb. 21, 1981, the day Officer John M. ``Mike'' Callahan II was killed when his police motorcycle was struck from behind as he slowed to turn off East Lamar Alexander Parkway (then New Walland Highway).

Callahan's motorcycle was destroyed in the accident, and a decision was made that it would not be replaced immediately.

The delay, which was to have been temporary, stretched out more than 23 years.

Chief Tony Crisp said four new Harley-Davidson Road Kings were purchased with money from the drug fund at no cost to the taxpayer.

Harley Davidson makes a line of motorcycles especially for law enforcement use and each department outfits them for their own use. The four motorcycles added to the Maryville Police Department's traffic unit are equipped with radar so officers can monitor neighborhoods and major thoroughfares to enforce the posted speed limits.

Maryville Police Department initiated the traffic unit in September of 2003 in response to the city's annual citizen survey which indicated residents believe speeding is a problem throughout the community.

Officers in the traffic unit spend 24 hours a day dealing with traffic-related issues and are trained in accident reconstruction. Currently, they are targeting high-accident-rate areas, but they will also work in neighborhoods that have an ongoing problem with speeding. The motorcycle officers will be assisting other traffic unit officers, especially during heavy traffic in the morning and evening.

The advantages of using motorcycles as part of the traffic unit include their size which allows easy maneuverability in crowded areas. In certain situations, a motorcycle will be able ride around heavy traffic to be reach the scene of an accident and begin first aid, if needed, as well as help to clear traffic to allow access by other emergency responders.

During crowded events, such as the Foothills Fall Festival, the motorcycles will allow for quick movement from one point to another.

``Another huge benefit is the one-to-one contact with our residents, which is a very important part of our community policing efforts. People seem to feel that officers are more accessible to conversation when they're on a motorcycle rather than in a vehicle,'' Crisp said.

The officers who will be manning the motorcycles are Sgt. Chris Tuck and Officers Gary Caughron, Mike Braden and Ronnie Pryor. All four have completed training in the use of police motorcycles and earned certification in that area.

All four are veterans with the Maryville Police Department. In April, Tuck marked his 11th anniversary as a Maryville officer and Caughron had his ninth anniversary with the department. Braden has been a Maryville officer since September 1995, and Pryor joined the department in October 1989.

While the current Maryville motorcycle officers didn't know Callahan, all were acquainted with Alcoa Police Officer Tim Hunt, who died April 20, 2000, after his police motorcycle was involved in a collision on Alcoa Highway.

The newly certified motorcycle officers said their safety as well as the safety of others is their primary goal.

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