Motorcycle Unit

The History of the Milwaukee Police Department Motorcycle Unit

 The Milwaukee Police Department started using motorcycles in 1908 by patrolmen.  In 1908, two (2) motorcycle patrolmen were assigned to the 1st Precinct (Central Station) .  The next year 1909, two (2) motorcycle patrolmen were assigned to the 1st Precinct (Central Station) and one (1) motorcycle patrolman assigned to the 2nd Precinct (South Side Station).  From the Annual Report, the police motorcycle squad was established in 1909.  The report indicated that Police Chief John Janssen thought the motorcycle squad was “useful” with controlling speeding automobiles and they cited 134 speeders.

In 1910, the police department established a motorcycle unit which consisted of five patrolmen. Three were assigned out of the 1st Precinct (Central) while one patrolman was at 2nd Precinct and one at 3rd Precinct. The motorcycle unit did not increase until 1914. 

In the spring of 1914, the department added five additional patrolmen to the motorcycle unit to have a unit strength of nine (9).  Five (5) patrolmen were assigned to the 1st Precinct, one patrolman each to 2nd Precinct, 3rd Precinct, 4th Precinct, and 5th Precinct.  The motorcycle budget for 1915 was $1,698.50 and then dropped in 1916 to $1,009.50.

From the years of 1916 to 1920, the motorcycle unit rose from 11 to 13 patrolmen.  The majority of the patrolmen were assigned out of the 1st Precinct (Central Station).

The early unit utilized Harley Davidson one cylinder, displaced 30ci with white rubber tires and Thor motorcycles with one cylinder. 

In 1921, the unit consisted of eleven patrolmen.  One of the patrolmen who joined in 1921 later became know as Mr. Motorcycle.  Patrolman Leo Oztelberger headed up many of the major parades and motorcades.  Patrolman Oztelberger went on to retire from the police department in 1962. 

In 1950’s, the late shift motorcycle patrolmen formerly working from 12:00 Midnight to 8:00 AM were changed to a shift 6:00 PM to 2:00 AM. This provided additional coverage during the early evening hours when traffic was very congested.

Currently in 2019, the Motorcycles Unit consists of 44 officers and 55 Harley Davidson Motorcycles.   The motorcycle unit officers are responsible for all motorcycle maintenance and some repairs.  Each officer has been fitted to their assigned Harley Davidson cycle and has been optimized for an officer’s physique and taste.  The motor officers take their assigned motorcycle home with them.   The cycles have police two way radios, sirens, lights, and auxiliary power for department laptop.  The laptop trunk mount designed for the Motorcycle Unit has been referred to as the “Milwaukee mount”.

After one century, the Milwaukee Police motorcycle unit continues to patrol the streets and back alleys of the city.      

Typical Bikemen of the 1920's pictured above.

1911 - The first group of Bikermen.

1917  Original bike coppers lined up outside of the Central Station.

1921 - Bikemen lined up at Washington Park.

1923 Harley Davidson advertisement.

1932 - Chalkin the tires. A chalk mark was placed on the tire of a vehicle to detect if a vehicle violated a limited time zone parking area.

Motorcycle cop in 1940's Uniform.

1940  Ptlm. Daniel J. Gleissner seated on his bike on a warm August day.

1947 - A group of bikemen gather in the garage of the Safety Building.

1950's Bike Copper.

The office of a 1950's Bikeman.  Gotta love the Schlitz bottle opener.

1950  Bikeman on a traffic stop.

1960 Harley Davidson advertisement.

1962  A couple of "Bikemen" in an advertisement for Harley Davidson.  The Milwaukee County Courthouse and Safety Building are in the background.

October 1992  One of the units more famous riders, then Presidental Canidate Bill Clinton hops on an MPD cycle.

October 1992  One of the units more famous riders, then Presidental Canidate Bill Clinton hops on an MPD cycle.

August 2003  P.O. Greg Duran organizes riders at the Harley Davidson 100th bike rally.

2009  The modern bike copper takes advantage of technology.

2009  Lt. Stephen Basting and Bike Sgt. Kerry Namin set up traffic at a double homicide scene.

2009  Swinging traffic for a Brewer game on Bluemound Road near Miller Park.

2010  The Motorcycle Unit celebrates it's 100th Anniversary outside of the Harley Davidson Museum.

2011  Kicking off the Christmas Parade.

2011  Bike often work in pairs while doing traffic in high crime neighborhoods.

The Years
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