Newport adds maneuverability -- and more traffic tickets -- with its new motorcycle patrol

A 2009 Harley and a guy who liked dirt bikes
Newport adds maneuverability -- and more traffic tickets -- with its new motorcycle patrol
Posted at 7:00 AM, Nov 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-28 08:58:15-05

NEWPORT, Ky. -- Newport's motorcycle patrol is a plus for traffic safety -- if you don't mind the extra traffic tickets that also entails.

The patrol is a new part of the police department that's been in place since March, and brings with it maneuverability and access that patrol officers don't normally have, said Newport Chief of Police Tom Collins.

And it doesn't hurt that the 2009 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide gets great gas mileage as well.

It's a no-brainer for the city, which needed access to tight situations, Collins said.

"It gives us more mobility to get around events like at Riverfest," Collins said.

Of course, the city still has Segways and bicycle patrols, but they can't chase cars easily.

So far, Newport has only one motorcycle, and only one officer who rides it: Todd Suszek.

He goes places typical patrol cars can't go and does things they can't do, such as driving across bridges to check on problems or maneuvering through tight traffic to get to the scene of an accident first. At that point, he can call off emergency vehicles that aren't needed -- or call for more.

"I can also get up on the sidewalk if I have to," Suszek said.

Then there's just regular traffic patrol and, well, issuing more tickets than he did in his patrol car.

Newport Officer Todd Suszek

Suszek noted, for example, that he's been able to address traffic issues on the Taylor-Southgate Bridge, where he's clocked some drivers on the 30-mph road doing 60 and 70. Construction workers at the Hamilton Inn had told him of their safety concerns with the speeding cars.

Suszek's daily patrol also includes the Purple People Bridge, which he crosses each morning to check for problems.

He's found that he connects with people more on his motorcycle than in the comfort of a police unit.

"I've talked to people in a car while just sitting at a stoplight," he said. "I'm more approachable."

Suszek said he's also more aware of his surroundings from just having more open visual space.

And, he said with a laugh, he smells things, too.

"I can tell if they're smoking marijuana," he said.

Suszek, who's been on the force for 15 years, volunteered for the post, attended specialized police training from Northwestern University's Center for Public Safety, and Harley-Davidson.

He was a natural for the post -- he loved dirt bikes as a teen, and later he and his wife traveled the country on motorcycle.

His job also includes participating in the Tri-State Motor Unit, a group comprising members from Cincinnati, the University of Cincinnati, Covington, Hamilton County Sheriff's Department and Lawrenceburg, Indiana. The unit is trained to escort officials, such as a visiting presidential candidate, and lead the motorcade.

Newport bought the used motorcycle from Blue Ash for $8,700, paid for with a grant from Kentucky's Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.

Purchased in October of 2015, the Harley spent the winter being repainted from silver to Newport black with logos and other Newport Police Department markings added.

And as for that gas mileage, Collins and Seszek are both happy.

Seszek said he travels twice as far as he did in his Crown Victoria over the same amount of time.

"It costs $40-$45 to fill up the car," he said. "$12 is the most (I've put in the bike)."

Collins is happy, too, with the mileage: 30 to 40 miles per gallon.