Harleys may be returned

Published 6:58 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2006

By By RYAN STEWART / Niles Daily Star
NILES - The Niles City Police Department's motorcycle program may be in jeopardy.
Since 2002, the department has leased two Harley-Davidson motorcycles from Motown Harley-Davidson in Taylor, near Detroit.
The Harley-Davidson Company initially developed a program where they lease brand-new motorcycles to police departments at a $1 per year rate.
Not only are they invaluable in certain situations, but they are also a favorite among citizens. “They've been the best P.R. (public relations) tool we've ever had. Just with the feedback we get from the community,” Huff said.
From 2002 until 2004, that $1 per year rate was intact. Harley-Davidson ended up “flooding the market” with this deal, and several police departments across the country took advantage of it.
The agreement was that a department leased a motorcycle for a year, then the next year traded up and leased the newest models. As a result of its popularity, the supply and demand of the motorcycles drove the price of the traded-in models way down.
The program began to lose its luster and Harley-Davidson wasn't making nearly as much money on the used models as it originally had.
This caused the company to significantly increase the lease rate. In 2005, the rate had jumped from $1 a year to $1,200 a year per motorcycle. The Niles Police Department was able to come up with the extra $2,400 to lease the two motorcycles for that year. But as of the end of this month, the 2006 lease year, the price per motorcycle has again sharply increased, now to $2,250 per year. “This money just isn't available.” Huff said.
Those areas include sidewalks, parks and easier access to car accidents on busy streets.
The motorcycles are only used when it's above 50 degrees. The motorcycles also get much better fuel efficiency than the patrol cars and they take advantage of that.
Due to the extensive training that is required in order to be able to drive the motorcycles, only two officers at the Niles City Police Department are authorized to drive them. Those officers are Lt. Scott Glick and Jim Kidwell.
When asked if there had ever been any situations where he was glad he had a motorcycle, Officer Kidwell remembered an incident last fall when he used the motorcycle to go in some backyards to apprehend a suspect.
He also remembered some instances where there had been car accidents on a busy street, or when there was a lot of traffic, that he was able to get to much quicker than he would have if he were in a patrol car.
The Harley-Davidson dealer that the police department leases their motorcycles from has offered to sell the current models to the Niles department for $13,750 a piece.
Based on the average amount of miles they've put on each motorcycle each year, Huff estimates they would likely get about 10 years out of each motorcycle. That comes out to $1,375 a year.