She’s back for a third time on Garden Grove PD’s motor team, and her heart is revving
The second time she rotated out of motors, she shed a few tears on the way home.
If it had been up to her, Katherine Anderson never would have done anything else as a cop but ride a motorcycle.
But rules are rules, and the Garden Grove PD rotates officers out of units (motors, narcs, etc.) every five years.
It was Jan. 21, 2012.
Anderson was so sad to be leaving motors she kept her helmet on while her friend and co-worker Ed Desbiens gave her a ride home after she put her motorcycle in the shed for the final time.
She called her husband Brian on the way home and said, “Have a drink ready for me,” and he did.
That night, she kept her uniform on until 10 p.m.
“I thought it would be the last time I would ever get to wear that uniform,” she recalled.
When Anderson finally peeled out of her boots, they stayed beside her bed for a year.
“I finally accepted the fact I was not a motor (officer) anymore,” Anderson recalled, “and I put them in the closet.”
Well, a funny thing happened in May 2015.
For a third time, Anderson became a member of GGPD’s motors unit — and she couldn’t he happier.
“This is Frederick,” Anderson said as she prepared to get on her BMW during a recent patrol shift.
“He’s German. I call him Fred for short.”
Anderson’s back in her element — where the 22-year veteran cop always has belonged.
It started just after high school — in secret. Her parents would have freaked out.
Anderson, who grew up in Costa Mesa, had a friend with a street bike.
A Kawasaki Ninja.
Hey, it was the mid-’80s. What would you expect?
Anderson had a car.
On the weekends, she and her pal would switch.
She would ride his Ninja, and he would get things done that required a car.
Anderson learned how to ride the Ninja by sitting behind her friend on his bike and watching how it was done.
She honed her skills riding solo.
Back then, helmets weren’t required.
“I loved the freedom of riding,” Anderson said, “and the feeling of my hair blowing in the wind.”
Four years after she graduated from Estancia High School, Anderson bought her first motorcycle, in 1990, with money she got from working in retail shops at Fashion Island and as a bagger and bakery worker at the Ralphs on 17th Street near Newport Boulevard in her hometown.
It was a Harley Sportster.
Mulling a career, Anderson knew one thing:
She wanted a outdoorsy job.
She wondered how she could get paid to ride her motorcycle.
She thought about those riders who escort funeral convoys, but thought that would be too depressing.
Then Anderson hit on the idea of becoming a cop.
She sold her Harley and put herself through the Criminal Justice Training Center at Golden West College.
Her parents and sister worried about such a dangerous profession, but supported her.
From day one, Anderson wanted to be a motor cop — a 5-foot-6 female at the controls of a 700-pound piece of machinery.
Sure, the job had its dangers and physical demands, but Anderson knew it was what she wanted.
Of course, you can’t always get what you want.
Anderson was hired by the GGPD in March 1994 and did patrol for a couple of years.
Her first year as a cop on a bike — a Kawasaki KZ1000, the classic one the actors on “CHiPS” rode — was 1997.
By 2000, a lot of GGPD officers whose union was in a contract dispute with the city left for other agencies.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Dept. recruited Anderson. An official there helped woo her by mentioning that motor officers at the OCSD had no rotations; they could stay on their bikes forever.
Anderson started at the OCSD in 2000 but to her chagrin learned it would be years before she could test for motors.
She spent two years as a deputy in the Women’s Jail in Santa Ana and two years overseeing detainees in holding cells at the West Justice Center in Westminster.
Those days were challenging.
In addition to her less-than-ideal and at times depressing assignments, Anderson was going through a divorce.
Then, in 2004, her phone rang.
On the other end was Sgt. Bob Bowers of the GGPD.
“Hey, you want your old job back?” Bowers asked Anderson.
Anderson returned to the GGPD, worked patrol a couple of years, and got back on a bike in 2006 — this time, a Harley Road King.
She remarried in 2007 and had a baby in 2008 and was off the bike for 10 1/2 months, but she savored her second tour as a GGPD motor officer until it ended on Jan. 21, 2012.
Today, Anderson is one of only five female motor officers in Orange County (the others are at the OCSD, Irvine PD, Costa Mesa PD and Santa Ana PD).
“We call it the sisterhood in the brotherhood,” said Anderson, one of six female officers at the GGPD (three work patrol and two investigations).
Anderson’s best friend, Jennifer Metoyer, is a motor cop for Murrieta PD.
Anderson and Metoyer and Santa Ana PD Motor Officer Irene Gomez spend a lot of time outside of work riding together recreationally.
Anderson has three children, ages 7 to 13. Her second husband is a Senior Corporate Manager in charge of investigations and executive protection with Banc of California.
“He knows how much I love (riding) and he is happy when I am happy,” she says.
Anderson’s youngest, a girl she had with her second husband, thinks she’s the coolest mom in the world. A big part of Anderson’s job is visiting schools to talk about pedestrian and bike safety, and she was a huge hit at her daughter’s school. Anderson said family is her priority, and setting a good example of working hard to achieve goals is what she hopes to teach her children.
There’s a saying among motor officers: There are those who’ve gone down and those who will go down.
Anderson knows her job is extremely dangerous, so when she’s on patrol she assumes no one else can see her.
She especially is cautious going through intersections.
“Those left-turners not yielding are a factor in a lot of motorcycle crashes,” she said. “Those collisions can lead to career-ending injuries, which happened to a good friend of mine, or worse. “
Anderson broke her right ankle during a fall when training in 2006 for her second tour as a GGPD motor officers. Only recently were the plates and screws removed.
Other than that, she has been hit while on her motorcycle, but has not been seriously injured.
Anderson notes her sister is a wine distributor.
“My parents love her job,” she says with a laugh.
Currently, Anderson and fellow GGPD motor officer Royce Wimmer are in the process of training two new motor officers. They must master such skills as negotiating cone patterns, stopping and starting, riding in traffic and appraising the surface of streets for potholes, oil, water and debris.
Often, new motor officers work with stress balls to strengthen their forearms to prepare them for the punishing repetitive acts of working a clutch and throttle all day.
After two months of in-house training at Angels Stadium, the future motor cops spend two weeks of intensive training at the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Dept.’s Emergency Vehicle Operations Center.
Anderson and other motor officers don’t just hand out tickets (Anderson says she likes to give a warning to one motorist per shift).
They respond to all fatal traffic accidents day or night, and because of their mobility typically are able to get to serious calls quickly to back up patrol officers.
They also work DUI checkpoints and conduct crosswalk stings to make sure motorists stop for pedestrians.
Anderson is passionate about child passenger safety.
All the time, she says, she sees kids not properly buckled into their car seats. Parents usually make the excuse that their child unfastened the buckle — even toddlers who have no clue how to perform the task.
She takes the time to show them how to properly buckle up their children, and depending on how much of an effort they put into the original task, they most likely will get a citation.
“Everyone’s in such a hurry and so distracted these days,” Anderson says of motorists. “I often will be sitting directly next to a person texting or talking on the phone at a red light, and they won’t see me. When they finally look up, they throw the phone over their shoulder somewhere within the vehicle. It’s kind of funny to see.”
Anderson sits on the board of the Orange County Traffic Officers Association, which among other things puts on every year the well-known Rodeo motors skills contest in Huntington Beach.
And Anderson recently got certified as a motorcycle instructor.
“I think that’s something I want to do when I retire,” Anderson says. “It’s another way to get paid to ride!”
As a female motor cop, Anderson knows she’s a rarity.
Drivers usually do a double take when they realize she’s a woman.
“A few female drivers try to get out of tickets, thinking I’m a man,” Anderson says. “After I pull them over they look in their rearview mirrors to put on fresh makeup or unbutton their blouse or hike up their skirt.
“Then when I ask for their license and they see I’m a woman, they get embarrassed or pretend, ‘Oh, my (breasts) just popped out.’”
Do those techniques ever work?
“Not for me,” Anderson says with a smile.