With weather warming up, Gramentz will be taking the New Ulm Police Department’s own motorcycle out for patrol more often.
He recently became the only serving New Ulm police officer to earn a Motor Officer certification. The winged wheels he earned are pinned to his uniform shirt.
For Gramentz, the two weeks he spent in training were taxing but paid off because it allowed him to do a job he enjoys.
Within the scope of police work, a motorcycle serves many different functions. Gramentz said it’s a public relations tool because when people see a police officer on a motorcycle, they see something different from a police squadcar. The motorcycle also allows for people to approach police officers on the street.
In terms of police work, the motorcycle is more maneuverable and can get into places the average squadcar can’t fit into. Motorcycles can also cut through traffic more easily than squadcars can. Motorcycles also cost less money to operate than squadcars, although they can only be ridden safely about six months out of a year.
Although six other New Ulm police officers have motorcycle endorsements, Gramentz is the only certified Motor Officer.
The pin on Gramentz’s shirt, which depicts a motorcycle wheel with two wings coming out of it, was earned through a two-week course for motorcycle officers taught by the St. Paul Police Department’s Motor Unit. Gramentz has a DVD to prove it.
The video shows him and three other officers weaving their motorcycles through different arrangements of traffic cones, learning how to handle their motorcycles as they would need to do while on duty, and then learning to ride the bikes off road. The video shows plenty of wipe-outs and dumps and motorcycles that got stuck in the side of a hill.
Head placement was one lesson Gramentz remembers well. He said that a person who looks down at the ground while turning will almost always dump their motorcycle on its side, but if a person keeps their head up, they can make any kind of turn.
“I lost count of how many times I tipped it over on my first day. I got sick of picking it up,” Gramentz said.
State law requires police officers to have a certain amount of a certain type of training each year in order for officers to maintain their licenses to be peace officers. While the law doesn’t require a Motor Officer certification to do a motorcycle patrol, it gives officers more in-depth training about how they can use motorcycles to their advantage.
Gramentz said the Motor Officer training was the most physically and mentally demanding training he’s had because it involves sitting on a motorcycle for eight to 10 hours a day in the sun with a leather jacket on and because it involved failing many times and learning what was done wrong over and over again.
Nobody pressured Gramentz to get on the department’s Harley-Davidson. He said he found the Police Department’s motorcycle and realized the department didn’t really have anyone to ride and, after he found out training was being offered, he asked for permission to take the course.
“It was something I saw that was unique and I could do it. It’s been my special little niche,” Gramentz said.
Being a Motor Officer “is belonging to a true brotherhood,” Gramentz said.
During training, he and the other trainees couldn’t eat with their instructors until after they graduated but got invited out to eat after they completed the course.
Gramentz first started riding motorcycles three years ago. He thinks of his present occupation as ironic, since he swore earlier in his career that he’d never ride a motorcycle because of experiences he had as a sheriff’s deputy in South Dakota, where an annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D. is held each year.
Gramentz said he now likes riding a motorcycle even through it has one big drawback: motorists sometimes don’t realize there’s a motorcycle in front of them even though the motorcycle has ‘New Ulm’ and ‘POLICE’ and a red flashing light on it and Gramentz rides while he’s in full police uniform. Like many others who ride motorcycles, Gramentz believes “people should start seeing motorcycles.”
The New Ulm Police Department has had motor officers periodically throughout its history. The department has pictures of past officers on motorcycles, some of which are from the late 1950s and some of which date back to 1907. Gramentz first began patrolling with the motorcycle in 2007.
New Ulm Police Officer Eric Gramentz smiles after graduating from the St. Paul Police Department’s motor school. Gramentz is one of six officers who is qualified to ride a motorcycle but the only officer to hold a Motor Officer certification.