At the Children's Museum at La Habra, kids can pretend they're motorcycle officers

By Rebecca D’Auria

Kids visiting the Children’s Museum at La Habra can now hop on a police motorcycle.

Okay, maybe not a fully functioning police motorcycle, but one that gets very close to the real deal.

Mirroring a miniature version of the La Habra Police Department, a retired police motorcycle has found its permanent home on display in the Children’s Museum at La Habra’s neighborhood heroes exhibit.

Within the exhibit the motorcycle, which is fully equipped with lights and siren, is with other first- responder exhibits, including firefighter jackets and a miniature version of a fire station. Visitors can see both sides of public safety in the display and kids can climb on the motorcycle while pretending to be a motorcycle officer.

Although the motorcycle display seamlessly fits with the exhibit, getting the bike put into the museum was no easy task.

From conception to implementation, the new display took nearly two years to become a reality, and the motorcycle on display in the museum today is not the original bike that was intended for the museum.

In this file photo, La Habra Police Department Motor Sgt. James Tigner, left, and Chief Jerry Price help Destiny Lopez, 7, left, and Gabrielle Lopez, 3, check out a new police motorcycle exhibit at the Children’s Museum at La Habra during National Night Out in August 2018.
File photo by Carlos Delgado

The original motorcycle the La Habra Police Department was planning to gift to the museum was one that served the La Habra community. Just before the bike was to be retired, it was totaled after an accident; luckily, the officer involved in the collision was not seriously injured.

“After we made sure (the officer) was okay, we were sure to give him a hard time,” La Habra Police Sgt. Jim Tigner said. “We joked that he just screwed up the children’s museum’s bike, so now what are we supposed to do?”

Fortunately, the City of La Habra’s fleet coordinator, Jayson Blackburn, had a connection to Ray Macias, the fleet coordinator at the City of Buena Park. Macias once was a lead mechanic at La Habra and is also a resident of La Habra.

The Buena Park Police Department uses Honda motorcycles just like La Habra, and had a bike they had just retired.

“I asked (Macias), ‘Hey, what’s going on with that motorcycle?’ He said, ‘Oh, we’re sending it to the auction,’” Blackburn said. “So I asked him if it could be given to us for a museum exhibit and he said, ‘Okay.’”

Once the bike was obtained, Blackburn put roughly 100 hours into refurbishing it, adding La Habra seals and police markings as well as making the bike safe for kids at the museum. A challenge was creating a secure stand to hold the motorcycle in place without taking away from the presentation of the bike.

From left, La Habra PD Motor Sgt. Jim Tigner, Children’s Museum at La Habra Director Lovely Qureshi, City of La Habra Fleet Coordinator Jayson Blackburn, and museum curator Lisa Reckon. Photo by Stephen Carr/Behind the Badge

“Jayson custom-built that steel stand,” Tigner said. “And he did everything that needed to be done to render the bike safe and go from a working police motorcycle to a working jungle gym at the museum.”

When it comes to the inspiration behind the display, the museum director, Lovely Qureshi, said she wanted to do something about the typically negative press police officers receive. Having an interactive display for kids to touch and play that involved police just made sense.

“You know, in the past there have been some negative stories in terms of police departments nationally,” Qureshi said. “So as a children’s museum, we thought what a great way to partner with our police department and have some kind of positive images and ideals behind being a police officer.”

Lisa Reckon, the museum curator, added to the point to further explain that it is important to have a space available for kids that allows them to be creative and use their imagination.

“It is good to have kids imagining themselves as, not just first responders, but also as someone that serves the community,” Reckon said.

As a child, Tigner became inspired to become a police officer after watching shows about police officers — shows such as “CHiPs”, “Adam-12,” and “They Andy Griffith Show”.

Tigner also added his own donation to the exhibit – a few of his La Habra police shirts.

Before jumping on the motorcycle, kids can dress up in police swag, which includes a police helmet. The kids even have an opportunity to have their photo taken all dressed up.

“It’s been a wonderful partnership, and we strongly believe in bringing the community out and having a relationship with our officers,” Qureshi said. “It’s what we feel our role at the children’s museum is: to facilitate families and community members to come out and meet with everyone.”

From left, La Habra PD Motor Sgt. Jim Tigner, Children’s Museum at La Habra Director Lovely Qureshi, City of La Habra Fleet Coordinator Jayson Blackburn, and museum curator Lisa Reckon. Photo by Stephen Carr/Behind the Badge

If you’re lucky, when you visit the museum, you might even catch Tigner or one of the other La Habra officers who are known to occasionally pop into the exhibit.

“The display was well worth the wait,” Qureshi said, “and the community’s reaction to the display has been extremely positive.

“There is never a moment where the seat of that motorcycle is empty. Kids are constantly on it. It’s a favorite, probably the biggest hit in this room, if not the whole section of the museum.”