ATV Patrol Options.
With a modern police vehicle of any sort hitting a city’s budget for anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000, do ATV-type vehicles make sense for specialized functions? And, if your agency polices mostly urban areas, does it rule out these innovative vehicles for your use?
Hardly. As a matter of fact, you might find more uses for them than you might imagine.
I wanted to get some firsthand knowledge about modern off-road and ATV-type vehicles, so I attended a presentation by Yamaha, co-hosted by Ruger (the gun company) at Gunsite Academy in Arizona. During my own police career, I spent weeks on end patrolling on ATV Quads. They were stock consumer models with no features specifically designed for LE work. Engine sizes were only in the 250cc range, and the flimsy plastic bodies, terrible seats and “consumer-grade” suspension meant a day in the saddle was long, tiring and sometimes frustrating.
We designed training classes around the ATVs, and basically developed our own rules and regulations regarding their operation. But in the beach communities of San Diego, even in spite of the ATV’s flaws, we found them to be a powerful enforcement tool as we chased fleeing bad guys up and down stairs, crossed soft sand and beaches, snuck around trails to roust transients and even responded to radio calls on city streets when gridlock was the rule in the summer months.
Citizens were always amazed when two or four (or more!) officers suddenly appeared seemingly out of nowhere, rapidly taking control of situations that could have easily gotten out of hand due to delays in normal beat car response times. Taking shortcuts in alleys, on sidewalks, across fields and even riding right into shopping malls or apartment complex grounds made us highly mobile, able to respond fast and to rapidly find a problem and nip it in the bud.
If your agency polices an urban area, it doesn’t exclude the use of ATVs, and as a matter of fact, an ATV sometimes makes the best sense. What I learned from my own experience riding them in city environments was their ability to keep officers highly mobile is perhaps their strongest point. For the price of one beat car, a city could create a team of four officers equipped with quad ATVs to conduct special enforcement in any part of their city. Do you have a park area that’s always a problem? Alleys, which seem to be dirtbag magnets? Huge apartment complexes with too many calls for service? How about a burglary problem in an industrial area?
We had great use of them on our beaches, and they were particularly handy during public events like parades or anytime crowds were an issue. Plus, there’s something about seeing a smiling cop on an ATV that really gets the attention of both the good citizens — and the bad ones, too. The good guys love it, and the bad guys know they can’t outrun a cop on an ATV. We were also amazed how sometimes the bad guys simply didn’t recognize we were cops. I know it seems hard to believe, but they’re so geared toward police motorcycles and patrol cars, two “guys” riding ATVs often could ride right up to a dope deal. Of course, we only caught the stupid ones!
Basically, if you’re using bicycles now, you can really expand your abilities by adding a couple of ATVs. The two-seat models offer more room, sometimes have roofs to help with sun or rain, have storage and make it easier to carry long-guns. They can be equipped with emergency lights, radios, first-aid kits and other goodies if you need them.
The Yamaha Tactical Black Special Edition Grizzly & Rhino 700s. They started out clean and pristine … they looked even better after we played hard in the dirt and mud at Gunsite.
In the early 1990s when I rode the ATVs in San Diego, we soon found the stock consumer models simply didn’t have the options available we needed. Their “light-duty” nature meant they broke down more often, plastic bits like fenders tore or ripped off easily, and storage was non-existent. Every cop had their own solution to carry their ticket book, first aid supplies, flashlight and other necessities, and none of the solutions (soft packs, ammo boxes, etc.) were very effective.
How times change. After using the Yamaha products I can see all of our early concerns have been addressed handily. The units we rode (both single-person and 2-person vehicles) were brawny, had bigger motors, were rock-solid in both performance, function and features, had 4-wheel drive, and offered options to carry long guns and store equipment. The quality was obvious, and even after hard riding over several days, they didn’t beat us up like the old ones used to.
Yamaha also invited writers from the outdoor market to participate in the test. These were people who made their living riding ATVs hard and fast. While I was a trainer when I was on the police department, I can honestly say these people know how to really make these vehicles do some amazing things. In the right hands, and with the right training, they’re virtually unstoppable.
The 1-person ATV, the Tactical Black Special Edition Grizzly 700, has a 686cc single cylinder engine and offers the highest horsepower-to-weight ratio of any Yamaha utility ATV. With standard front and rear equipment racks capable of holding up to 286 pounds, there’s plenty of room for your gear. Bodywork is extra-tough, and the automatic transmission and fuel injection makes riding easy and reliable. The 4-wheel drive technology today is amazing and the power-assist steering is remarkable; the Grizzly hopped logs, climbed banks and screamed across the flats without a bobble. We all came away very impressed with this turnkey ATV.
The side-by-side 2-person model, the Tactical Black Special Edition Rhino 700, also has an automatic transmission and features the same power plant as the Grizzly. The 4-wheel drive offers options like switch on the fly, fully locked wheels and 2-wheel drive options. The cockpit uses car-like controls, with 3-point seatbelts, ignition-key operation, indicator lights and even a 12-volt accessory outlet. The rugged construction of the Grizzly is carried over into the Rhino, and the roll-cage construction and handy utility bed on the rear simply enhances the package. The Rhino would be perfect for a 2-officer unit, offering high mobility with the added advantage of a 2-officer response to calls.
The models we rode sported some optional accessories, some very useful for LE needs, others not necessarily; but it was good to see different configurations and see how it all performed. There are long lists of specific features and accessories for each vehicle, and I recommend you check out their website to get a complete handle on their many benefits.
The slope of the Rhino front end made it difficult finding a stable shooting platform, and it was impossible to get a cheekweld while wearing a helmet. Remember, ATVs don’t provide cover, and they barely provide concealment.
When we rode our ATVs in San Diego, there was no way to carry a shotgun with us. Racks or locks simply didn’t exist, and the ATVs themselves really didn’t have any frame support for mounts. Our duty handgun was the sole means of protection at-hand, regardless of what we encountered. And the likelihood of encountering something serious was high due to our mobility and tendency to be used to police crowds.
Both the Grizzly and the Rhino have answered the need for cops to carry long guns (like an AR rifle) with dedicated mounting options. On the Grizzly, a mount carrying a long-gun “side-to-side” on the front rack makes sense. The officer not only can keep his eye on the gun, but also has the gun at the ready if needed. And there’s room on the mount for a second gun holder (think shotgun and rifle). On the Rhino, unique methods using the roll cage are possible, along with other options too.
The presentation was broken into three basic segments: handgun shooting, carbine shooting and familiarization with the Grizzly and Rhino ATVs. It was all tied together with us riding through several simulator ranges, while engaging targets. The Gunsite instructors had their work cut out for them with the attendees from the motorcycle/ATV industry. Many of them, as well as the Yamaha representatives, were not well versed in gun handling skills. Conversely, those on the LE side were not as adept with the ATVs as the others, and Yamaha did a fine job of teaching us. Everybody learned or improved skill sets, and had a blast in the process. Did I mention it rained? Think of the fun factor ratcheting up knowing you’ll get to romp around in the mud with ATVs and guns somebody else has to clean.
The guns Ruger provided, SR-556 carbines and SR9 semi-autos, all ran perfectly with the Hornady ammo we were provided with. One thing that really came up during our tests was the difficulty of deploying a long gun while wearing a helmet. A handgun is doable and we got in plenty of practice. But long guns were another issue. It’s impossible to get a proper cheekweld if you’re wearing a helmet, even a standard helmet as opposed to a full-face design. Having the option of a long gun (less-lethal shotgun rounds, AR platform, etc.) is great, but you’ll need to train to get your helmet off, wrangle the long-gun from the rack, then engage. We did some practicing and found it can be done handily, but you’ll need to practice in the real world.
Place In Law Enforcement
I’ve always believed ATVs are a great asset for police work; their uses range from backcountry enforcement, search and rescue, beach or park patrol, special events, parades to urban patrol. You’re only limited by your imagination. Today’s ATV, particularly the Tactical Black Special Edition Grizzly and Rhino 700s from Yamaha, are built better than ever — and built to withstand the rigors of harsh police use.
MSRP for the Grizzly is around $10,000. The Rhino is around $13,000. Yamaha has a Law Loan Program (say that three times, fast) to make it easier for you to decide if having these ATVs in your stable of vehicles makes sense. They also have a Government Order Program, providing discounts for government agencies. These programs are offered through local dealerships to city, state and federal agencies, search and rescue, volunteer fire and EMS. You can also reach out to Yamaha, directly, if you have further questions.
By Suzi Huntington
For more info: (800) 962-7926, www.americancopmagazine.com/yamaha
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