Yearly gathering of motorcycle cops stops through Hillsboro for friendly competition

         When the cavalcade of police officers descended on Hillsboro Stadium on Wednesday, you might be forgiven for thinking something major was about to go down.

And in a way, it was.

More than 100 police officers from across the Pacific Northwest were in Hillsboro last week for the yearly gathering of the North American Motor Officers Association, a group of motorcycle cops from across the U.S. and Canada, who spent three days training and competing against one another.

Think of it like the Olympics for police officers, said Sgt. Eric Bunday, a spokesman with the Hillsboro Police Department. The conference is held in a different city each year. More than 130 police officers from Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, British Columbia and Ontario attended this year's conference.

This is the first time Hillsboro has hosted the event.

On Wednesday, May 16, Hillsboro Stadium's parking lot was transformed into a series of obstacle courses for officers to practice on.

"It was awesome," Bunday said. "You wouldn't think 130 police officers was all that much until you see all their motorcycles lined up together."

Most police departments have only a handful of motorcycle officers, Bunday said. By gathering together, the officers are able to receive specialized training unique for motorcycle officers.

"It gives them the opportunity to work together," Bunday said. "Our motor officers are a very specialized role. They rely on each other."

Many of the officers who attended the conference come from small or medium-sized police departments, Blood said, with few opportunities to train with fellow motorcycle officers.

It's not uncommon for police from different departments to work together when needs arise, Bunday said.

"When we have big events, they send their motor officers up here for the air show, and a few weeks ago we had officers that rode down to help in Bend," Bunday said. "It's pretty cool how they work together. Through this conference they get to know each other and work together."

In addition to obstacle course work, Hillsboro Police also staged a traffic stop scenario for officers to train on, Bunday said.

"This gives them a look at what they might encounter, and how they might deal with it," said Sgt. Will Blood, who heads Hillsboro's traffic team. "There's a lot to do, and you're on a bike, you're not concealed and you don't have a lot of options. This gave 130 cops a look at what that scenario looks like. They loved it."

The riders weaved their way through cones and competed in several different competitions to test their skills on the bikes. In one, officers riding two different motorcycles were tethered together, Blood said.

"They have to stay close to each other, without breaking the tether," Blood said.

On Thursday, officers took to the streets with a memorial ride to L.L. "Stubb" Stewart State Park, north of Banks. The ride honors fallen police officers from across the country, Bunday said.

"It was a pretty impressive sight to have all those motorcycles riding together," Bunday said.

Hillsboro Police regularly train with motorcycle officers from Beaverton and the Washington County Sheriff's Office, Blood said, but last week's conference was different.

"It makes the guys have to ride harder and more than they would in a regular training," he said.

"This was a chance to work harder, train harder. It was a good opportunity for us to push ourselves."

On Friday, the officers' hard work was put to the test with a series of obstacle courses for the motorcyclists to wind their way through.

At stake was a set of serious bragging rights: The best motorcycle unit in the Pacific Northwest.

In the end, it was Hillsboro's own who took the trophy.

"We always expect our folks will do well," Bunday said, "but that was icing on the cake."

 Officers also brought home wins in several individual events, including the slow race, proficiency course and a pairs race.

Next year's conference will be held in Eugene. Bunday said he's sure the event will return to Hillsboro in the future.

"It falls in line with the city's motto of 'growing great things,'" Bunday said. "We were able to lean forward and show the motor officer community that Hillsboro is a leader in training and innovation in a lot of ways."

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