The best crime fighters on two wheels test skills at annual OCTOA Motor Rodeo

By Lou Ponsi

On September 12th, a half-mile strip of blacktop, normally a parking lot for beachgoers, recently became the ultimate stage for top motorcycle riders to showcase their skills – and these riders wear badges.

These men and women in law enforcement navigated their 900-pound, two-wheeled machines at Huntington Beach to compete in the annual Orange County Traffic Officers Association (OCTOA) Motor Rodeo, an event held annually at Huntington State Beach. OCTOA is led by longtime board member and current president, Motor Officer Laure Bao of the Santa Ana Police Department.

Competition officials look on while La Habra Officer Sumner Bohee rides through a cone pattern during the OCTOA annual Motor Rodeo in Huntington Beach.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

The 46th annual event involved about 300 motor officers representing more than 32 agencies from throughout Southern California. It is estimated there were about 200 civilian spectators who took in the action and enjoyed the interaction with the motor officers.

Among the agencies were the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, and the Los Angeles, La Habra, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Orange, Tustin, Westminster, Irvine, Pasadena, and Huntington Beach police departments.

La Habra Motor Officer Sumner Bohee waits for his turn to ride through one of five distinct cone patterns while participating in the competition circuit portion of the Motor Rodeo at Huntington State Beach.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

The maneuvers they performed mimic those employed by motor officers every day on the job.

“This is a training day for motors throughout Southern California to come together. They can showcase and hone their skills, while competing against some of the best motor riders in the nation,” said Jim Tigner of La Habra Police Department, himself a motor sergeant, instructor, and OCTOA board member.

La Habra Motor Officer Sumner Bohee rides through a challenging cone pattern in the competition circuit portion of the annual Motor Rodeo.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

While the Motor Rodeo is a competition, the event also offers camaraderie and networking opportunities.

“We have monthly training but it is nice to get out and see what the other departments are doing with their training too,” said Sgt. Sarah Fetterling, supervisor of the Tustin Police Department’s traffic unit. “It’s good to just see what other agencies are doing out there … what direction they’re heading.”

Hundreds of motor officers from law enforcement agencies from around the county stand with their hearts covered during the National Anthem before the start of the annual Orange County Traffic Officers Association Motor Rodeo at Huntington State Beach. Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Hundreds of spectators were on hand to watch the competitors navigate police Harley-Davidson, BMW, and Honda motorcycles in two separate events.

In the circuit competition, officers had to twist and turn their bikes through six unique cone configurations or circuits. Competitors had to get through each circuit without putting their foot down, touching a cone, dropping the bike, or riding out of the pattern.

La Habra Motor Officer Sumner Bohee rides through a challenging cone pattern at the Motor Rodeo at Huntington State Beach.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

“The cone patterns are actually very difficult,” said Orange County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Roger Dawes, who was attending his fourth motor rodeo. “That is why we do this. It’s a perishable skill. If we don’t continue to do the cone patterns and continue to control the power curve of the motorcycle, then that skill is lost. We do a lot of slow maneuvering, and if you compare police officers to the typical weekend Harley rider, the motor officers can control their motorcycles way more efficiently than a typical weekend rider.”

The popular top gun competition is like a maze where officers get to lead or follow. The goal of the leader is to throw off the follower, and the goal of the follower is to do exactly what the leader is doing.

Orange County Sheriff’s Department Motor Officer A. Gilbert leads the way as a fellow motor officer tries to follow him through a cone pattern during the Top Gun portion.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

“It’s very humbling and a great experience to compete with your peers,” La Habra Motor Officer Sumner Bohee said. “You see people with varying skills and abilities and it’s just an honor to compete with some great riders and it challenges me, too, to do a lot better.”

The nonprofit Orange County Traffic Officers’ Association was formed decades ago to provide financial support for the families of motor officers who’ve been killed or injured while on duty.

Fellow motor officers gather to watch the Top Gun portion of the annual OCTOA Motor Rodeo, where one motor officer has to follow another through a challenging cone pattern.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

“The camaraderie and bonding are great,” said Officer Shane Spielman of the Anaheim Police Department, a motor officer for 14 years. “It’s a great time. You’re putting the skills to work … the training that you use every day, where you are just putting it into a competition atmosphere. Obviously, the more you ride the better you get; the more you train, the better you get.”

La Habra Police Officer Josiah Telles was at the motor rodeo for the first time, not to compete, but to support his fellow officers.

An audience gathers to watch the Top Gun portion of the annual OCTOA Motor Rodeo.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Telles has been an avid street rider for years and is looking to transfer to the motor unit.

“The skill level is just amazing to watch,” Telles said. “This stuff is not easy. It’s not a walk in the park and some of these guys can do it with their eyes closed.”

Duke McNair, 3, the son of a California Highway Patrol motor officer, takes his turn riding through a cone pattern.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Individual awards are given to the top three finishers in both events; in BMW, Honda, and Harley-Davidson classes; and team awards are given in the circuit competition.

Orange Police Department Motor Officer John Pickett competes in the annual OCTOA Motor Rodeo.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Top Gun Head to Head

First: Officer Gooder, Irvine Police Department

Second: Officer Carrion, Anaheim Police Department

Third: Officer Flynn, Huntington Beach Police Department

Motor officers gather to watch the Top Gun portion of the annual OCTOA Motor Rodeo.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Individual Circuit, Honda

First: Officer Watkins, Pasadena Police Department

Second: Deputy Tomasko, Orange County Sheriff’s Department

Third: Officer Fay, Anaheim Police Department

La Habra Motor Officer Sumner Bohee rides through a challenging cone pattern.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Individual Circuit, BMW

First: Officer Carrion, Anaheim Police Department

Second: Officer Menchaca, Los Angeles Police Department

Third: Officer Murphy, Burbank Police Department

Anaheim Police Officer Tony Karg rides in the competition circuit. Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Individual Circuit, Harley-Davidson

First: Officer Markos, California Highway Patrol

Second: Officer Carter, California Highway Patrol

Third: Officer Eckerfield, California Highway Patrol

Hundreds of police motorcycles from law enforcement agencies around the county sit parked in rows at Huntington State Beach for the annual Orange County Traffic Officers Association Motor Rodeo.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Team Circuit

First: San Bernardino Police Department – Officers Peck, Holcombe, and Nelson

Second: Chino Police Department – Officers Bloch, Bernath, and Bunch

Third: Pasadena Police Department – Officers Watkins, Blumenthal, and Gaudet

The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs Pipe Band performs during the opening ceremony. Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Motor officers prepare to compete in the annual OCTOA Motor Rodeo. Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Hundreds of motorcycle officers ride through complicated and challenging cone patterns during the competition. Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Anaheim Police Officer Robert Summers leans into a turn while riding in the competition circuit. Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Dozens of motor officers line up to compete in the annual Motor Rodeo at Huntington State Beach. Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Todd Spickelmier of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department rides in the competition circuit. Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Motorcycle officers ride through complicated and challenging cone patterns while competing in the annual Motor Rodeo. Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Chad Henley of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department rides in the competition circuit. Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Hundred of motorcycle officers from law enforcement agencies from around the county ride through complicated and challenging cone patterns while competing in the annual Motor Rodeo at Huntington State Beach. Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Pasadena Motor Officer Alonso Gonzalez leans into a turn while riding in the competition circuit. Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Fellow motor officers and competition officials rush to help a fallen rider. Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Pasadena Motor Officer Zachary Sprague rides through cones during the competition circuit at the annual OCTOA Motor Rodeo. Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Orange Police Department Motor Officer Justin McGowan rides through a cone pattern while a competition judge looks on. Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Motor officers and competition officials rush to help a fallen rider during the annual Orange County Traffic Officers Association Motor Rodeo. Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge