The 32 members of the Fort Worth Police Department motorcycle unit will tell you they have the best job in the world. But it's also one of the most dangerous -- which is why the department puts them through the ringer to make sure they're prepared for anything they encounter out on the road.
"The feeling of freedom"
Spending the work day out in the elements, on the back of a powerful machine, cruising the highways may not be for everyone.
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But there's something about being a motorcycle officer that calls to certain people -- people like Officer Mike Richey.
"I always liked working outdoors -- I didn't want to be stuck in an office," said Richey, who is one of FWPD's motorcycle instructors. "I thought just riding around, the feeling of freedom on a motorcycle with the wind blowing through your hair -- or no hair -- is great."
Openings on the team are rare. Once officers join, they tend to stick around. And when they are looking to add more members, finding them isn't hard.
"We always have more applicants than we have openings," said Richey.
Turning Coal into a Diamond
To be on the FWPD motorcycle unit requires officers to be at the top of their game.
"You have to not only prepare yourself and prepare our guys to be police officers, to respond accordingly to the threats you might have as a police officer -- but also respond to traffic threats," said Richey. "We're working the most dangerous areas you can -- in roadways, sometimes on the freeways, where a car is speeding 100 miles per hour plus."
So each and every month, he and the other instructors put the team through a different kind of training. Then twice a year, they test the officers on their skills.
The officers have to pass if they want to stay on the team.
They run all kinds of scenarios -- making sharp turns, sudden braking, and how to avoid a vehicle or object in the road when braking isn't an option.
"It's like getting a lump of coal and polishing it every single day," said Richey. "And eventually we get a diamond out of that."
Mustaches Not Required, But Tradition
Nearly every member of the FWPD motorcycle unit has a mustache.
Richey admits he's not sure why they became the unofficial mark of the motorcycle officer. He only knows that when he joined the unit, all of the other members had them.
"So what did I do?" said Richey. "I wanted to be part of the group -- so I grew a mustache."
He says they're not officially required, noting that some guys don't like them -- and FWPD's motorcycle unit occasionally has female members.
"But there is some peer pressure to have a mustache," Richey laughed. "It's tradition."