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Tuesday, February 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Then and Now

Motorcycle cops

The 1946 photo shows the entire Spokane Police Department traffic division, which was mostly motorcycle riders.

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Image One Photo Archive The Spokesman-Review Image Two Christopher Anderson The Spokesman-Review

The motorcycle cops of the 1940s rode year round, according to retired officer Jack Latta, 88, who started patrolling downtown Spokane streets in 1952. When winter came, Latta said, they added sidecars for stability, canvas fairings for warmth and lap blankets that would bring engine heat to an officer’s cold legs. Increased comfort through a long day in the saddle is the biggest difference between those early bikes and and the new ones, said Dan Hite, 78, a longtime mechanic who maintained the city’s motorcycles, including Latta’s. Today, most city, county and Washington State Patrol officers ride either a modern Harley-Davidson V-twin or a Honda 1300cc bike, equipped with state-of-the-art lights, siren, radios and radar gun. Latta remembers when radios were first mounted on bikes. Because the bike’s generator didn’t produce much power, he rode with his receiver on, but his transmitter off. When he got a call from dispatch, he would have to rev the engine, then switch on the transmitter to respond. Hite has a fond place in his heart for Latta, who took impeccable care of his bike, especially the engine. Hite later learned that Latta would add a squirt of oil to each tank of gas. “That should be a lesson for everybody,” said Hite.

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