Tues, Feb. 1, 2011
Martin Gonzalez was part of the Houston Police Department’s Solo Motorcycle Detail before his retirement, escorting presidents, leaders of foreign countries and State Department officials on Houston highways at high speeds on a motorcycle.
Gonzalez, a Houston Police Officer for 26 years, and Edward H. Camp, a 10-year veteran of the motorcycle unit, will be talking about the elite assignment at Real Talk with CJ on Feb. 1 at 2 p.m. in CJava Cafe. The unit is charged with traffic enforcement, accident investigations, and escort services for dignitaries and prominent funeral processions, including those for fallen officers.
"Every escort is memorable," said Gonzalez, a retired senior officer, who has escorted Presidents and Presidential candidates, including George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. "Your adrenaline is pumping, and the speed you are going is so fast."
While escorting may be the most memorable part of the job, the unit is responsible for freeway mobility, daily patrols and accident investigations along the interstates, roads and highways.
"We ride from sunup to sundown," said Gonzalez. "We keep the arteries of Houston open."
The Houston Police Department’s Motorcycle Detail, better known as the “Solo Detail,” has been around for more than a 100 years. It was created in 1909 to address the growing traffic concerns in downtown Houston, when the population was a mere 80,000 residents.
The detail currently consists of 40 riding offers and four riding sergeants. Most of their time is spent patrolling the freeways around the city, but they also are called upon to conduct escorts or protect dignitaries.
Before joining the unit, a motorcycle officer must complete 40 hours of training, including how to handle the motorcycle at slow speeds, evasive maneuvers and braking techniques.In addition, officers undergo 16 hours of yearly recertification and a four hour monthly refresher course. Officers ride year-round and must be willing to work flexible hours in all kinds of weather.
The work is often dangerous. During his four years with the unit, Gonzalez was in two accidents, once hit by a driver on a cell phone and once hitting a dog on the back roads. As a result he suffered a broken collarbone and ripped the lining of his stomach, causing a hernia.
After several motorcycle officers were killed while escorting a presidential candidate in the 2010 election, those operations have been scaled back nationwide, Gonzalez said.
To be considered for the Motorcycle Detail, a police officer must have at least two year of experience in law enforcement, a valid Texas Class M License and an excellent work and attendance history. Applicants also must pass a riding evaluation in a course designed specifically for motorcycle riding skills.
Currently SOLO’s is responsible for teaching all internal motorcycle certification classes, conducting Mobility Response Team training, and Oversized Truck Training.
Gonzalez began his career with the Houston Police Department in 1984, working in patrol and investigation. He also worked at the Houston Airports, operating a specialized vehicle, which had the capability to x-ray packages and luggage for explosives on dignitary planes, including those used by President Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Camp has been with the Houston Police Department for 19 years.