Motor Musings on a Funeral Ride

On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, I saddled up and rode about 150 miles (round trip) to pay respects to Placer County Sheriff’s Deputy Detective Michael David Davis, Jr. and his family and friends. I did not ride alone.

There were ten of us from six different agencies.

Every time I ride with my motor brethren, I am reminded of so many things. These were some of my thoughts on our journey today.

Motors are unique within law enforcement.

You may think this goes without saying, but I had a very specific thoughts regarding motor units. We (sadly) train far less than any other specialized unit in law enforcement. K9? Monthly. SWAT? Same. Motors? I can’t remember the last time I went to an organized training.  That being said, though, you will not find a more dependable and predictable lot of folks. Ten of us rode at about 70 mph today. We ride in tandem close enough to touch the other man’s handlebars. Each of us was about 10′ behind the other. If one of us does something stupid or isn’t paying attention, a lot of pain would result for a number of us.

The unique part comes in when I think about SWAT teams from differing agencies. If they were to gear up and handle a high risk detail with agencies they’ve never trained with, would their operation run as smoothly?

I doubt it.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that the men with whom I ride will anticipate my movements just as I anticipate theirs. I’m not saying we’re better or smarter than SWAT folks. Not in the least. We’re just different.

There’s something intuitive about those of us that make our living on two wheels. Something intangible.

Motors don’t go inside for funerals.

If you’ve ever been to an officer’s funeral, you will see a smattering of groups gathered haphazardly outside. 93% of them are motor officers.

Why? It is not out of disrespect. Quite the opposite, really. If you’ve been on a motor longer than six months, you’ve been to a funeral. It comes with the territory. Someone somewhere decided it fell under the motor officer’s purview to represent the department.

Let’s be honest, it’s a lot more moving to see an ocean of motor officers in a processional. Right, wrong, or indifferent.

No, we don’t go inside unless there is an exception. Either we personally knew the officer that was killed, we were there when it happened, or we’re new to motors.

To be blunt, I can’t take going inside anymore. Hell, I couldn’t stomach going to back-to-back services. (There was a service for Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver at the same church on November 3, 2014.)

This was the 23rd officer’s funeral I have attended in the last eleven years.

You try going to that many and see how it makes you feel.

It’s hard to ride a motorcycle with tears in your eyes.

It happens every time. On the journey there. On the journey home. The tears come unbidden when I take a second to remember what the day was for and the honor I feel at being able to show the officer’s family, friend’s and department the love that I feel for their loved one. I think about my own children and the Wife sitting in the seats of the family dealing with loss and I pray to God to spar them the experience.

Twenty-three funerals have given me twenty-three reminders that the community supports us…despite popular culture and the media’s attempts to convince me otherwise. 

I remember why I do this job and for whom I do it. I do it for the soldier I saw standing at attention and saluting us on the overpass. I do it for the guy on the levee road on our ride home that pulled over to let us pass and so he could give us the world’s most enthusiastic thumbs up. I do it for the mom and the little girl who waved the American flag on the corner to honor the fallen and thank us for our service.

Motorcops are some of the funniest people in the world.

We laughed all through breakfast and lunch. We genuinely love to be around each other. The camaraderie within a motor unit, regardless of differing agencies, is something only other motors understand.

There is still life to be lived and an impact to be made.

Case in point:

Motor officers doing what they do best. Posing for pictures.

Motor officers doing what they do best. Posting for pictures.

We pulled in to Old Sacramento for lunch and there were two school buses about to load some kids up after an apparent field trip. They all waved and said, “Hi, Police!” Of course, we waved back and said hello. One of the guys I rode in with asked a bunch if they would take a picture with us. You’d have thought we asked them if they wanted a million bucks.

Eyes lit up and there were no shortage of smiles.  (One of us let a little girl sit on his bike. He’s a swell guy. Also, his hair is indeed amazing.)

After an understandably somber event full of sadness in mourning, we had the opportunity to literally spend less than two minutes with a bunch of young kids. None of us can possibly know what kind of impact that may have.

I pray that in the amount of time I have left in this job, I never have to attend a 24th funeral.

I am not optimistic, though.

Maybe instead, I will start praying to be reminded of those kids, that soldier, that guy on the levee, and the mom and daughter. Maybe I’ll start praying in thanks for being surrounded by the caliber of people that risk their lives day in and day out on two wheels.

I know I will continue to pray for all of our safety and that each of us makes it home to the ones that love us.

To my motley crew of motors:

Thank you, gentlemen, for your wit, your compassion, and your dedication to this job. Thank you for the honor of riding with you. Thank you for taking a difficult day and helping me through it. I pray I did the same for you.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

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16 thoughts on “Motor Musings on a Funeral Ride

  1. The bagpipes, the final ring down and the tolling of the bell get me every time. I’ve been to enough Police Officer and Firefighter funerals to last me a lifetime. Thank you for representing those of us who couldn’t attend.

  2. Nothing more beautiful, sad than what goes into an LEO funeral. The honor, respect and love is so thick. My condolences to those officers families. I pray for my little group of LEO friends from my dept daily as well as those i dont know. A qucik word to God when i see an LEO doing their job to keep them safe.

  3. I had the honor to ride with my husband in his patrol car last March, for the funeral of one of our local deputies. I sat beside him in that auditorium, surrounded by his brothers and sisters, numb from the pain I could feel radiating around me. I saw men, tough men, crying like babies as the final call went out. Being my first law enforcement funeral (though not his), I flinched in panic as they sent out the final call, for a horrified moment thinking they were playing the dispatch tapes from that horrific day. I too cried like a baby as the bagpipes sounded, the procession moved outside and his wife carried a flag out in her arms, instead of holding the hand of her husband, like she should have. He gave his life to protect his fellow LEO’s, one of which was my husband. I cannot thank him enough, but it know his wife can’t possibly feel that way. She just wants him back.
    Thank you for attending, thank you for continuing to be a stellar example of what a real cop is. Thank you the knowledge that should my husband (heaven forbid) ever fall, you and thousands like you will be there to hold him in your hearts and bear his soul home. None of the officers who have passed can ever be forgotten, when so many have them branded on their hearts.
    Thank you.

  4. My heart goes out to the friends and family of this officer, and every other fallen hero. I hope you never have to go to another, too. Be safe.

  5. Well put. That’s the only aspect of work I miss having made it to retirement. Being a motor is the best job there is. As with you I went to far too many funerals and still hope there will be at least a small period of time that there aren’t any.

  6. MC.I am sorry, that I could not make the trip. Thanks for doing it for us old guys who can get along that easy any more. God Bless, My brother, for everything you do.
    BE SAFE.

    • A final call is signing the fallen officer off for the radio for the last time. As a dispatcher myself, I’ve been present in the room when we did them, however, I personally would not be able to hold it together. Whether I knew the officer personally or not, they are all in my family too. Even the dispatcher who read them managed to get through the reading but fell apart after.

  7. I’ve been on a lot of those rides with you over the years, and many before your time. It is so important that we represent our departments at these funerals. It really means something to the families of the fallen. Most times, I chose to stay outside when the fallen officer had small children in attendance. When I saw them, I was forced to look at my own mortality having small children myself. It was too hard to watch.

    I do miss the camaraderie in making the troops, especially when they were training outings and not funerals. Being a motorcoach for almost 15 years was the highlight of my career. Also having my call sign retired after I signed off for the last time was a wonderful honor. Keep the rubber side down and theven shiny side up!

  8. MC, It has been my honor to ride with you and some of the best guys in the world. I truly miss the camaraderie, with all of the hijinks and boisterous behaviors. Thank you all gentlemen (jokers may have been more appropriate) for carrying on the motor tradition.

    I was truly the luckiest man in the world living a childhood dream. Retirement is great and every time I see a motorcop up in the Pacific Northwest I say to myself, “That Officer has the best job in the world.”

    Once a motorcop, always a motorcop.

    Stay safe my friends, keep your heads on a swivel and keep the rubber side down.

  9. My husband was a motor cop for many years. Last year, his son died unexpectedly. His son was a Marine and former correctional officer. A friend and dretired motor cop called and asked what he could do. My husband and this friend ride with a group of current and retired law enforcement officers; the group is called CalTex becuasue the officers are primarily from California and Texas. My husband asked that our friend arrive at the funeral on their motorcycle, in honor of his son who rode with CalTex with his dad when he was a teeenager.

    On the day of the funeral, we were standing outside the church greeting attendees and thenking them for coming, we heard the roar of motorcycles. The entire motor unit from the local police department arrived, in unison, and ceremoniously parked outside of the church. My husband and I were brought to tears. Following the funeral, the motor officers accompanied the hearse and family to the Veteran’s cemetary. We were so honored and thankful for the show of support from our fellow law enforcement family. We can never, ever find the words to express our gratitude for the show of support and will be forever grateful.

    Motor officers are a rare breed of law enforcement. We pray that you stay safe and that you know how much you are loved and appreciated.