SKILL BESTS EXPERIENCE ... Sheriff’s new ‘motormen’ compete well at training

Deidre Cruse
MR. RODEO CHAMPION...Lt. Wayne Miller of the Iberville Sheriff’s Office demonstrates the skills that won him the championship at the recent Mid-South Police Motorcycle Rodeo in Memphis, competing in a field of 47 law enforcement “motormen.” Miller also placed first in the Division I Novice division. He and Deputy Eric Tankersley, who placed fifth in the team competition and 22nd overall, have worked as motorcycle officers here for only eight months, and were competing against officers with as much as 15 years of experience.

Lt. Wayne Miller of the Iberville Sheriff’s Office outpaced more experienced motorcycle officers from at least 10 other agencies to win the title of “Mr. Rodeo Champion” at a recent training event in Memphis.

Miller and Deputy Eric Tankersley, the sheriff’s only two motorcycle patrolmen, competed against 47 officers with up to 15 years of experience at the recent Mid-South Police Motorcycle Rodeo.

Tankersley acquitted himself well, finishing fifth in the team competition, and 22nd overall.

Before the training and skills competition, Miller said, they attended three days of training.

“They set up cone patterns,” he said of the trainers. “Each was in a pattern an officer might face.”

They got to test their skills in competition with a slow ride, a challenge run, and a speed and efficiency contest, Miller said.

The lieutenant was named the best overall in the competition.

“I didn’t know a bike would do what I’ve seen him do,” Chief Criminal Deputy Stephen Engolio, a bike rider himself, said of Miller.

Tankersley said the program was put on by four law enforcement agencies from Tennessee.

“It’s good training for motorcycle officers, but all the money raised goes to charity,” the deputy said. This year’s proceeds, some $12,000, benefited a Shiners’ organization that transports children to hospitals.

Miller and Tankersley went through their initial training last August, and have been on the job for only eight months. Before that, the two motorcycle enthusiasts had to convince Sheriff Brent Allain that the program was worthwhile.

Allain said he checked with other sheriffs on budget and other issues involved in deploying deputies on motorcycles and decided to give the program a try.

“So far we’re getting extremely good compliments on them,” the sheriff said. “It’s very, very efficient for the department.”

The first week they were on duty last fall, they spent 17 hours on the road escorting inmates from New Orleans to Angola before Hurricane Gustav.

“They were handy during the hurricane, too, when the roads were three-quarters blocked,” Chief Criminal Deputy Stephen Engolio said.

Tankersley recalled going through the Bruceville and Patureau Lane area, where powerlines had fallen over the roadways.

“A unit couldn’t go through that section,” he said.

For the most part, Miller and Tankersley work traffic and radar duty. The greater maneuverability they have on their Harley Davidson Road Kings than in a patrol car makes them the first choice to escort funeral and wedding processions, as well as for patrols around schools.

“It’s a little more personal,” Allain said. “They get a little more respect.”

The motorcycles are easier and cheaper to maintain a patrol car, Engolio said, and have great advantages in traffic. They can get through a line of 40 cars to get to the scene of a wreck, he said.

To be a motorman, Lieutenant Miller said, a rider has to be able to ride the cycle, observe criminal activity and look out ahead for obstructions.

“You hear more from the bike, see more from the bike,” Tankersley said.

He said he was a stickler about enforcing child restraint laws, which is easier from a motorcycle when you can see into a car. People don’t argue about tickets as much, either, since they knew the rider was close enough to see the violation.

Lieutenant Miller, he said, had worked with the Law Enforcement Against Drugs (LEAD) Task Force and has been known to make a marijuana bust from smelling it in traffic.

RIDING REWARDED...Deputy Eric Tankersley, left, and Lt. Wayne Miller, right, the Sheriff’s Office’s only two motorcycle deputies, show off the awards they won at a recent motorcycle training session and competition. Miller won the championship. Chief Criminal Deputy Stephen Engolio, center, a biker himself, admired the tight turns the two officers made with their Harley Davidson Road Kings to set up this shot outside the sheriff’s office.