Deputy Matt Lindemann and Officer David Bright are both motorcycle traffic officers – one in Lathrop and the other in Manteca.
Both share an identical passion in wanting to keep motorists safe while enduring an onslaught of cursing responses from the violators they pull over and cite for their offenses. Both have witnessed the horrors of the road in traffic collisions as well as seeing pedestrians that have been run down by average 2,000 pound vehicles.
Lindemann himself was a victim of a Lathrop driver who pulled in front of him several years ago at an intersection of Lathrop the and Cambridge Drive launching him over the vehicle and to the pavement some 50 feet beyond the car he struck. After a lengthy stay in the hospital he was off work recuperating for over six months. He credited the anti-lock brakes on his motorcycle as being the difference between life and death for him in the collision.
Fortunately a Lathrop Police Services employee was at the stoplight where the crash occurred having just finished her lunch at a nearby eatery and called it in to the dispatch center.
Bright joined the Manteca Police Department in February of 2004. Field training officer Greg Beall and Sgt. Nick Obligacion trained him on riding motors. He had previously worked as an assistant manager with In-N-Out Burger in Modesto and at several other In-N-Out locations where he was drilled in customer service.
“Law enforcement is what I always wanted to do,” Bright said.
He noted that he went through the Sheriff’s Regional Academy in Modesto with a neighbor and made a couple of good friends in the process.
“The biggest challenge in traffic enforcement is that people want to make it personal not realizing that I am out there for their safety and for the safety of their families. People don’t like to get tickets and they tell me about it when they do,” he added.
The Manteca officer said riding code 3 through Manteca streets with red light and siren on a motorcycle can be difficult because it’s harder for motorists to realize what direction the siren is coming from. Sometimes it is easier to head to a crash scene without lights and siren and instead carefully split through traffic.
Being impatient creates danger
Lumping collisions into one category, Bright said many of them are caused by “people just being impatient.” He stressed that speeding and running red lights is only good for one to two minutes in saved driving time and puts the public in danger.
“I’m no different than they are,” he said, “but they curse and yell at me and call me every name in the book while I am only trying to do my job and be the best I can be,” he said.
Bright said his long-term goal is to be as proficient as possible in riding motorcycles, adding that he rides his personal bike on his off time away from the police department. There are a total of four motorcycles at the Manteca department – usually just two on the road at any one time – with a required monthly training schedule. Officers must successfully go through four different patterns every 30 days to keep their certification current.
“You definitely learn your vulnerability as well as that of everyone else,” he said. “It just takes one little mistake and you can be seriously injured.”
Deputy Lindemann has been with the Sheriff’s Office for 11 years, first working patrol in Lockeford before being assigned to Lathrop Police Services where he has worked traffic for five years.
He has two motorcycles at home – both civilian versions of his BMW police bike. He has become very comfortable in riding the 1200 (RTP) which stands for Race Touring Police.
The Lathrop motorcycle officer works Monday through Friday from 7 until 3 in the afternoon. The first thing he does when he arrives at the Seventh Street station is to check out his equipment and then rides over to the school zones in the community.
Lindemann is the highest rated collision reconstruction specialist in the Sheriff’s Department having received his training in Concord and Sacramento completing the three levels of detailed instruction from basic to advanced.
Writes up to 15 tickets a day - mostly for speeding
There is a lot of vehicle and pedestrian traffic around Lathrop High School – so he’s there right away in the morning, he added. Lindemann said he writes 12 to 15 citations a day mostly for speed, cell phones and seat belts. Those citations are issued mostly to middle aged moms taking their sons and daughters to school, he said.
“At this point there are not a lot of student drivers at the high school because the student body is just getting into a four year-status,” he noted.
The officer said when he first started the traffic beat in Lathrop there were a lot of citations issued for unlicensed drivers and for driving unregistered vehicles, adding that there has been a noticeable decline in those offenses.
Both officers continually back up patrol officers on the street with calls in Manteca and in Lathrop from burglaries in progress to robberies and also responding to investigate traffic collisions.
Lindemann echoed Manteca’s David Bright, saying he too has been called every name in the book by violators he has stopped – more by women than by men.
“They are upset knowing it’s going to cost them money with some being extremely confrontational. Men tend to shut down and be quiet while women will argue to defend their position – often heatedly,” he said.
The Lathrop deputy added that he gets more cooperation and respect from the older generation – 55 and up.
“Very rarely do I get one that age group that pops off, rather admitting the violation and thanking me for the job I am doing out there,” he said.
As for a motorist with a cell phone, he strongly recommended: “Leave the phone in the back seat or turn it off!”
He insisted that the biggest thing with driving overall is that people need to be aware in the moment, explaining that in simply answering the phone a business man for example is distracted with a response where he might say, “Hi, this is John Smith at ABC Chemical.”
At 50 miles per hour that vehicle would have traveled 150 to 200 feet in those three seconds it took the driver to answer the cell phone. If a hazard had presented itself, it would have taken 1.5 seconds for a “perception reaction” by the driver – another 110 feet.
That relates to an actual speed of 73 feet per second for a total of 219 feet the driver has traveled while saying those few words on his phone and another 200 feet before the car starts braking.
Lindemann is working traffic less now as he is transitioning into a community resource officer assignment becoming a liaison officer between the community and the police department. He is also setting up Neighborhood Watch groups and teaching the citizens’ police academy and the junior police academy geared to Lathrop students.
Deputy Jesse Aleman is moving into full-time motorcycle traffic enforcement, Lindemann said.
— GLENN KAHL
209 staff reporter