Anaheim police officers school motorcyclists on safety at Coppers & Choppers Expo 

By Daniel Langhorne

Dozens of motorcyclists roared into the second annual Motorheim Coppers & Choppers safety expo Oct. 27 at Angel Stadium to learn how to ride safer from Anaheim Police Department’s motorcycle officers.

Whether they rode in on a Harley Davidson, BMW, Indian, or Honda, attendees endured the scorching midday heat to learn how to safely lift a downed motorcycle, brake at up to 40 miles per hour, and navigate quick turns around safety cones at safe speeds.

Anaheim Police Motor Officer Matt Ellis, left, and Motor Officer Nathan Fay talk while standing in front of a classic police motorcycle on display during Motorheim’s Coppers & Choppers at Angel Stadium.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

“Most people are going to tend to ride defensively, but the more comfortable you are on the bike the more comfortable you’re going to be when something bad happens and you have to avoid a collision,” Officer Brian Carrion said.

Anaheim motorcycle officers train on the same kind of cone patterns that Motorheim riders faced in the Angel Stadium parking lot, Carrion said. Officers observed the riders as they weaved through the cone patterns, coaching them on how to adjust their use of the brakes, clutch, and throttle after each pass.

Gloria Moore of Whittier gets on her pink 2004 Harley-Davidson Road King as the afternoon classes start.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

California motorcycle fatalities increased 11 percent from 494 in 2015 to 548 in 2016, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS). With the number of fatal motorcycle crashes on the rise in California, Anaheim police hope those who attended the Coppers & Choppers safety expo will be better trained to avoid the hazards they encounter on the road.

Besides the ridership training, Anaheim police offered a demonstration of how alcohol impairs a person’s motor skills by having a pair of volunteers drink until they were over the legal limit and then try to successfully ride a bicycle through a twisting traffic cone course. The bicyclists either knocked over cones or struggled to keep their feet on the pedals.

Gloria Moore of Whittier, center with Buffie Starry, left, and Brigitte Fernandez, both of La Habra, at the Anaheim Police Department’s Motorheim’s Coppers & Choppers safety expo. Brigitte Fernandez was a La Habra Police Explorer in 1984 when she was 16.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Officer Matt Ellis and Officer Gerry Verpooten also set up a roadside DUI test where attendees could put on Fatal Vision goggles, which simulate the impaired vision people experience when impaired by alcohol intoxication. Participants were then asked to follow directions and walk in a straight line as if they had been pulled over for suspected DUI.

“We don’t randomly pull people over and do this test,” he said.

Anaheim Police Motor Officer Nathan Fay teaches a class in motorcycle safety before an Anaheim Police Department Top Gun motorcycle demonstration at Angel Stadium.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Officers look out for signs such as the smell of alcohol or marijuana on someone’s breath, bloodshot eyes, or an inability to answer simple questions like where they’re coming from and where they’re going.

“When we arrest people, it’s built on the whole totality of what we see,” Verpooten said.

Motor Instructor Steve Anderson, left, conducts a class teaching other riders on various motorcycle techniques.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

John Trevathan of Anaheim brought his Can-Am Spyder out to practice safely braking after speeding up to 40 miles per hour in straight line to avoid colliding with an imaginary object. Trevathan said it was helpful to get a better understanding of how to maneuver his motorcycle in a stressful situation. Anaheim motorcycle instructors measured Trevathan’s speed and coached him on how to properly get his bike to hit its mark.

“You can focus on the one task,” he said. “Eventually, that one task will be second nature and you can handle it in the mess of traffic.”

Motor Officer Ken Newman has motorcycle riders run through various obstacles during Anaheim Police Department’s Motorheim Coppers & Choppers at Angel Stadium.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Tammy Colbert of Huntington Beach turned out to get tips on how to better maneuver the new Harley Davidson she purchased in March. One of the big lessons she learned from the motorcycle officers was to keep her eyes focused ahead of her to scan for objects in the road well before she needs to avoid them.

“They give so many useful tips and it’s really helped my riding,” Colbert said.

Motor Officer Ken Newman has motorcycle riders run through various obstacles during Motorheim’s Coppers & Choppers at Angel Stadium.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

After 23 years as a motorcycle officer, Carrion said he’s experienced just about everything that can be done on a bike and hopes his knowledge of riding can help save someone’s life.

“If we can give them that little piece of the pie that they can work on when they go home, that’s the best part and it helps us out,” Carrion said.

Mike Alpine of Temple City, left, rides his BMW R1200RT while competing with Anaheim Motor Officer Gerry Verpooten in a friendly Top Gun exercise during Motorheim’s Coppers & Choppers.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

The evening before the event, Anaheim Police Department experienced a double fatal motorcycle collision on State College Boulevard at Cliffpark. A motorcyclist traveling at an estimated speed above 70 miles per hour collided with a car making a left turn, killing the motorcyclist and the driver. Organizers of the event hope their efforts can prevent these types of avoidable collisions.

Mike Alpine of Temple City, left, gives Anaheim Police Motor Officer Gerry Verpooten a high five after participating in a friendly competition during Motorheim’s Coppers & Choppers.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

A rider participates in a demonstration as he rides a bicycle through an obstacle course after blowing a 0.02 on a blood alcohol test, to show how drinking impairs a motorcyclist’s driving ability.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge