(American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Saturday, July 12, 2014 4:49 PM
The summer heat pounded the pavement Friday afternoon at Burton Coliseum where five brave souls completed the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office motorcycle skills course.
Water and Gatorade were in no small supply as all the riders who started the course passed their final tests.
It was all part of the plan, administrators and instructors said — putting the riders in tough, grueling conditions for two weeks to prepare them for the rigors of patrol.
“It’s rough on them when we put on the class in the summertime,” said Sgt. Jody Doucet, the instructor. “It adds more stress and wears them out, but when it’s over and done, they’re better trained and more prepared to get on the streets.”
The five were all smiles as they rode their final courses and gathered around the bikes just after noon.
“I’m glad it’s over,” said Bradley Guidry, who passed the course with Keeba Barber, Chris Daigle, James Smith and Landry Willis.
Barber is the first female in the Sheriff’s Office motorcycle division, which was begun more than a decade ago.
A fall only meant picking up the 800-pound bike and getting back on.
“Every day, you were going home with bruises,” Barber said. “It’s a heavy bike; if it falls against you, it hurts.”
The class accepts experienced and rookie bikers, said Cmdr. James McGee, head of enforcement. Sometimes, it’s better to have a rookie, so no bad habits have to be broken.
There are only two things that are required to get into the course, he said: “desire” and the physical fitness to ride a bike.
Barber entered the class with limited experience, while Guidry had been riding Harleys since 2008.
“The course riding is a lot rougher,” Guidry said. He said an eight-hour course ride could feel like 16 hours.
Barber earned high praise from her classmates and instructors.
“We don’t look at male or female, it’s deputy,” McGee said. “We had a female showing a strong desire to do it, and she came out and did it.”
Barber did all the work the guys did, Doucet said.
“If you come through and you make it through, it’s an honor,” Doucet said. “It’s an honor for me to finally get a female to say, ‘I want to take a shot.’ Whatever the guys went through, she went through.”
“It was tough, but the guys made me feel like one of the guys,” Barber said, adding that more female riders are needed. “They pushed me through. It was a big help.”
The small class was the first McGee could remember with a 100 percent passing rate. He credited the five riders’ “determination and desire.”
The motorcycle division has eight bikes, all Harley-Davidsons, and keeps about 15 active riders, who split their time on the bike with other duties.
“It’s very important because it serves a lot of purposes,” McGee said. “You see the bikes at parades and funerals, but they are also important on traffic details and criminal details where cars can’t get through.
“It’s hard to justify people full time on bikes, but we have them when we need them.”