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Concord police add motorcycle to fleet for first time in 20 years

  • Tracey Sopinski hugs his mother-in-law Susan Webb following the unveiling of Concord Police Department's new motorcycle on May 3, 2013. Webb was married to Earl Webb for 49 years, a former police officer that passed away nearly a year ago. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Tracey Sopinski hugs his mother-in-law Susan Webb following the unveiling of Concord Police Department's new motorcycle on May 3, 2013. Webb was married to Earl Webb for 49 years, a former police officer that passed away nearly a year ago.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Standing alongside her family, Wendy Sopinski, left, wipes away tears after the new Harley-Davidson motorcycle memorializing her father, former Concord officer Earl Webb, is unveiled at the Concord Police Headquarters on Friday morning, May 3, 2013. This is the first motorcycle to be part of the fleet since 1992. Webb, who passed away nearly a year ago, was one of Concord's motorcycle officers and wore the badge number 38 throughout his career. That number is emblazoned on the back of the motorcycle. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Standing alongside her family, Wendy Sopinski, left, wipes away tears after the new Harley-Davidson motorcycle memorializing her father, former Concord officer Earl Webb, is unveiled at the Concord Police Headquarters on Friday morning, May 3, 2013. This is the first motorcycle to be part of the fleet since 1992. Webb, who passed away nearly a year ago, was one of Concord's motorcycle officers and wore the badge number 38 throughout his career. That number is emblazoned on the back of the motorcycle.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Loretta Emerson, a fiscal technician for the Concord Police Department, and Officer Dana Dexter look at a picture of Earl Webb, a Concord police officer that passed away last year, during his motorcycle officer days before the unveiling of the department's first motorcycle since 1992 on May 3, 2013. To memorialize Webb, the motorcycle wears the same number that was on Webb's badge throughout his career, "38."<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Loretta Emerson, a fiscal technician for the Concord Police Department, and Officer Dana Dexter look at a picture of Earl Webb, a Concord police officer that passed away last year, during his motorcycle officer days before the unveiling of the department's first motorcycle since 1992 on May 3, 2013. To memorialize Webb, the motorcycle wears the same number that was on Webb's badge throughout his career, "38."

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Tracey Sopinski hugs his mother-in-law Susan Webb following the unveiling of Concord Police Department's new motorcycle on May 3, 2013. Webb was married to Earl Webb for 49 years, a former police officer that passed away nearly a year ago. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Standing alongside her family, Wendy Sopinski, left, wipes away tears after the new Harley-Davidson motorcycle memorializing her father, former Concord officer Earl Webb, is unveiled at the Concord Police Headquarters on Friday morning, May 3, 2013. This is the first motorcycle to be part of the fleet since 1992. Webb, who passed away nearly a year ago, was one of Concord's motorcycle officers and wore the badge number 38 throughout his career. That number is emblazoned on the back of the motorcycle. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Loretta Emerson, a fiscal technician for the Concord Police Department, and Officer Dana Dexter look at a picture of Earl Webb, a Concord police officer that passed away last year, during his motorcycle officer days before the unveiling of the department's first motorcycle since 1992 on May 3, 2013. To memorialize Webb, the motorcycle wears the same number that was on Webb's badge throughout his career, "38."<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

It was a trusted piece of equipment at the Concord Police Department for more than half a century. But 20 years ago, budget constraints took it out of commission.

Yesterday, though, the police motorcycle made its triumphant, rumbling return to service.

The department’s new 2013 Harley-Davidson motorcycle, an Electra-Glide model to be exact, was dedicated yesterday and is now the first motorcycle in the fleet since 1992. Chief John Duval said he’s been hoping to add a motorcycle to the rotation of cruisers, SUVs and bicycles for a few years and got approval to lease one as part of his 2013 budget.

It took to the road, driven by Officer Bill Dexter, for the first time after yesterday’s ceremony. And within a few hours it had already shown one of its main strengths – covertness.

Duval said Dexter was stopped a few cars back on Canterbury Road when a car in front of him, in a lane only allowed to go straight, cut off a car in the left turn lane to go onto Loudon Road.

The bike “wasn’t hiding or anything,” Duval said. But he’s doubtful the driver would have made the same move if he had seen a black-and-white police cruiser behind him.

The chief said the motorcycle will

be used mostly for daytime traffic patrols because its size allows it to safely park in areas cruisers can’t, like medians. He said bikes are often used most successfully in tandem with a cruiser, with the motorcycle observing traffic violations and the cruiser making the traffic stop.

But he stressed that the new ride won’t only be used for handing out tickets but will also lead police escorts and ceremonial parades. Citizens may see it stopped downtown or at a park, and Duval said he hopes the bike will make the person driving it more approachable.

“It takes the officer out of a car and a little bit closer to the community, which for me is equally as important as (the) practical aspects of why we got it,” he said.

Each piece of equipment in the department’s fleet is assigned a number, and the motorcycle is sporting a black “38” painted near the front wheel. The number was assigned in memory of one of Concord’s former officers, who wore badge #38 during his 20 years of service.

Earl Webb, a member of the department from 1973 to 1993, died in June 2012 and the motorcycle is dedicated in his memory.

Webb – a straight-talking cop who made his point bluntly and with few words – often did patrols on one of the department’s motorcycles and was a longtime member of the Blue Knights, a law enforcement motorcycle club and charity.

Webb’s friends and family, including his wife of 49 years, Susan, were at yesterday’s ceremony, where they looked over photos of Webb sitting on a Concord police bike, his thick mustache and round aviators shaded by the visor of his helmet.

“Motorcycles were always his passion, and being able to go to work and doing something you enjoy off duty while you’re working is kind of like a double benefit,” Duval said.

Duval said the department has utilized motorcycles since the 1920s and stopped using them in 1992. At that time there were two aging Kawasaki motorcycles in the fleet. Officials decided those bikes weren’t worth maintaining, and buying replacements wasn’t an option.

Four officers – Dexter, Eric Crane, Andy Pellecchia and Andy Sargent – are now certified to use the new bike after taking part in a weeklong training.

The motorcycle’s lease runs for two years at $3,900 annually. The city will pay $2,400 of that cost, with $1,500 covered by a grant from the New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency, Duval said.

Duval said when the lease runs out the department will consider what’s best financially, buying the equipment and covering the maintenance costs or starting another lease.

(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or
tnadolny@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @tricia_nadolny.)

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