A Hog or a Beemer? It makes no difference to Deputy Paul Burks.
He just enjoys patrolling the streets of Columbia County on two wheels.
"It's really hard for me to say because I love my job," he said. "I'll take either one, actually."
With each stop around town lately, though, it's apparent that the newest motorcycle used by Burks - a BMW RT-1,100 P - has been the one getting all the attention.
"This is an eye-catcher," Burks said. "I can't go anywhere without being asked about it."
Burks has worked for the Columbia County Sheriff's Office as a motorcycle patrol officer for 2 1/2 years, doing so on the back of a Harley Davidson bike. Two months ago, he was switched to the new vehicle, which sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris says has a "futuristic" design.
Burks' bike is one of two new BMW motorcycles now policing the county's roads as a result of a recent expansion of the department's motorcycle traffic division from four to six.
The BMW was chosen to fill the open slots, according to Morris, because it offered anti-lock brakes and better handling at higher speeds, required less maintenance and included a longer warranty - 36 months, 36,000 miles, as opposed to Harley's 12 months, 12,000 miles.
"I'd say the biggest advantage for me is that (the BMW) has the anti-lock brakes, which is a huge safety feature on a motorcycle," Burks said.
At $16,999, the BMW costs $6,164 more than the Harley as it comes from the manufacturer. But Harleys must have special wiring and emergency equipment added at a cost of $2,495.
The BMW comes with the wiring and emergency equipment, bringing the difference between the two down to $3,669.
Morris said maintenance on the department's Harleys is required every 2,500 miles, vs. every 6,000 miles on the BMW. The cost difference in servicing the two for the same amount of mileage is about $300 more for the Harley.
"We're spending hundreds of dollars each year more than we project that we will spend on the BMWs," Morris said.
Still, the sheriff's office would like to keep its Harleys and says the jury is out on the BMWs.
"I doubt we'll ever eliminate Harley Davidson," Morris said. "We'll probably maintain a mixture or a blend of units at all times, because no one bike does it all.
"And of course this is a new program, and we will do a cost-benefit analysis. If it's economically unfeasible, we'll terminate the use of that product (the BMW)."
Morris said the cost analysis probably will be done after the department has owned the BMWs for one year. Meanwhile, he said, the two models should both serve the county well.
"Our officers have reported that the BMW handles and performs better at higher speeds," Morris said. "However, the Harley Davidson performs better at lower speeds."
Burks said the Harley has anotherplus.
"The Harley was comfortable," he said. "As far as all of the other comparisons (to the BMW), it's still kind of early in the game."
Morris said one thing is certain: people notice the BMW.
"We feel that the BMW has a futuristic look and appeals particularly to young people," he said. "And that's an advantage to our community policing effort."
"We feel that the BMW has a futuristic look and appeals particularly to young people. And that's an advantage to our community policing effort."
Columbia County Sheriff's Office Capt. Steve Morris
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