The Los Angeles Police Department became the third large California LE agency—along with the Los Angeles County Sheriff and California Highway Patrol—to select the BMW R1200 RT-P as its primary motor unit.
The department is now taking delivery of the last of the 100 R1200 RT-P 2009 sport touring motorcycles, and will shift away from the Harley-Davidson cruisers that have been a staple of one of the nation's largest motor patrol units. The department had previously purchased 14 BMW R1150s, the earlier generation of the current R1200.
Prior to making the move (from 2005 to 2008, H-D Electra Glides made 60% of the fleet), the department analyzed maintenance costs, polled its motor officers and tested each of the currently available bikes from BMW, H-D and Honda. The department declined to consider Honda's ST1300, because the tires don't meet the CHP's run-flat protocol.
"The maintenance [costs] of the 2005 to 2008 [Harley Davidson] motors were higher than expected and the reliability was less than expected," Larry Tagawa, commanding officer of LAPD's motor transport division, tells POLICE Magazine in an e-mail. "However, LAPD leased five each [of the] 2009 Harleys, which are working out substantially better in terms of maintenance and reliability."
The BMW motor units were ordered with tire pressure monitoring, anti-lock brakes with traction control, and heated hand grips.
A Long Beach BMW dealership is outfitting the bikes, which will also be further customized in the LAPD vehicle workshop. Mounts will be added to accommodate batons and shotguns with side-folding stocks.
BMW uses "bead retention" tires that allow an officer to safely continue riding the bike with a flat tire. The tire's bead (the inner portion of the sidewall) won't slip outside the lip of the wheel, according to BMW.
"The BMWs were selected after a number of factors were reviewed and evaluated such as total life cycle cost, reliability based on our 2003 [model] year R1150 RT-P motors, 39-month warranty, manufacturer's technical support, and input from our officers," Tagawa added.
"The BMWs are expensive to buy and maintain, but I feel that they will hold up to the rigors of LAPD police work," said LAPD motor officer Randy Fontyn.
The workhorse Harleys do provide departments a sturdy, affordable option. They cost an average of $1,495 less than the BMWs, according to the fleet report.
Harley-Davidson counts about 5,000 police motorcycles in service with agencies in Denver, Las Vegas, Tampa, Indianapolis and Milwaukee.
BMW won the motorcycle contract, in part, because the company's North American division allows the LAPD to make small repairs in its own workshops and obtain reimbursements for warranty repairs, said Frank Stevens, BMW's authority program manager.
The arrangement allows the department to make these "sublet repairs" without needing to deliver the bikes to the BMW dealership. LAPD technicians have completed BMW's motorcycle maintenance training.
When departments choose a bike for motor patrol, the decision is primarily driven by fleet budgeting issues that include both the initial outlay, as well as ongoing maintenance costs.