With little fanfare and a lot of humility, the Santa Barbara Police Department graduated its first female motorcycle officer this week. Tiffany Keller, from the Santa Ynez Valley and with the SBPD since September 2008, said she doesn’t read too much into her history-making position. “I’m just glad to be part of such a great group of riders,” she said Wednesday after one of her last training sessions in the Earl Warren Showgrounds parking lot.
Keller had never ridden a motorcycle before her two-week training regiment with the police department. Before she could start, though, she had to pass a test of basic physical requirements, like straddling the bike and pulling all 750 pounds of the Honda ST1300 from flat on the ground to the upright position. Now that she’s certified, Keller said she plans on buying some kind of cruiser bike. “Not a crotch rocket,” she explained.
Keller said she took several spills during her training — as did the other SBPD officer, CHP officer, and Sheriff’s Deputy in her group — but quickly learned how to properly eject when trouble arose. Getting to know the clutch and throttle were also tricky, she went on, but training supervisor Jaycee Hunter said Keller was a quick learner and is certainly ready to join the motorcycle detail, made up of five full-time riders and a six part-timers. Keller — one of 16 female officers out of the department’s 141 sworn personnel — will be a part of that support group, which often augments security during parades and special events
Hunter said approximately one out of seven trainees don’t graduate, and that it’s common for someone like Keller who has never ridden before to fail the courses. The entire motorcycle brigade goes through an update training every three months, he said. Of training the department’s first female cop on two wheels, Hunter said its significance might not be as large as people might imagine. “Things are different than they were 20-30 years ago,” he said. “The old-school, men-only mentality is completely gone. Female officers are just as skilled.”