This 1988 Harley-Davidson V-2 Twin cylinder engine police motorcycle was used for regular law enforcement duties by the Grand Rapids Police Department in the 1990s and early 2000s. Harley-Davidson has been manufacturing motorcycles designed specifically for police departments for over 100 years. The Detroit Police Department was the first in the country to use police motorcycles in 1908. The Grand Rapids Police Department started using motorcycles in 1917. Initially given to the Museum on loan for its WHODUNIT! exhibit in 2008, the GRPD permanently gifted the motorcycle to the Museum after the exhibit’s closure.
This Harley-Davidson motorcycle has a V-Twin 2 cylinder engine, a manual transmission, front and rear disc brakes, dual exhaust, police lights, sirens, and radio. It is white, black, and chrome colored with Grand Rapids Police Department decals on the fairings and panniers. The odometer reads 201,865 miles.
VIN: 1HD1EFL10KY111115, Serial #: 1989 HARFXR1340
This artifact was acquired at the end of the temporary WHODUNIT! exhibit for which it was initially borrowed in 2008-2009. The motorcycle, lights flashing, was placed at the entrance to the exhibit to attract attention and entice visitors inside. Aside from its significance in this particular exhibit, this motorcycle is important because of its connection to the history of the Grand Rapids Police Department.
Motorcycle makers like Harley-Davidson often design and produce a line of motorcycles that meet the unique requirements of police departments. Some of these designs include heavier frames, heavy-duty shocks, larger tires, and extra electronics for radios, sirens, and even onboard computers. The maneuverability of the motorcycle on crowded streets offers advantages not provided by larger, more traditional police vehicles. The relatively small size allows it to get to accident scenes more quickly when traffic collisions slow down access by cars. Police officers have used motorcycles, especially for traffic enforcement, since the early 20th century. Harley-Davidson claims that the Detroit PD was the first to purchase a motorcycle in 1911. Grand Rapids had a motor unit by the mid-1920s. This particular motorcycle was used by the Grand Rapids police for regular law enforcement work in the city during the 1990s and early 2000s.