EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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May 20, 2013

Plaistow has another officer ready for bike duty

Plaistow officer one of few women certified for motorcycle duty

PLAISTOW — Over the past 15 years, more than 1,000 police officers have completed Phil Miles’ police motorcycle training course. Just five of them were women.

“You just don’t see many come in here,” said Miles, head instructor at New England Police Vehicle Leasing in North Hampton.

Last week was one of those rare times.

Plaistow police Officer Sonya Robicheau, who has been with the department since 2011, completed the week-long course last Friday.

She joins School Resource Officer Joan Marsilia as female Plaistow officers who are certified to ride police motorcycles.

“I just love to ride,” Robicheau said. “It’s surprising that there haven’t been many (female police officers) who are certified to ride motorcycles.”

She said she had driven smaller sport bikes before, but the 800-pound Harley Davidson FLHP Road King was a different animal.

“It was definitely a struggle,” Robicheau said. “There were people in the class who were surprised that I came back after the first day.”

Miles estimated Robicheau had to pick her bike up about 20 times on the first day.

“She had taken a fall and I could tell she was apprehensive about it,” Miles said. “But we coached her and told her to let the bike do the work.”

The class simulates situations which an officer might encounter on a motorcycle.

“We went up to 30 mph and had to shift down to brake as if a truck had just pulled out in front of you,” Robicheau said. “We did slalom cones as if you were passing cars.”

By the end of the class, Robicheau was able to pass the final exercise, which includes two hard right turns and weaving the bike in between traffic cones.

Robicheau is one of four female Plaistow police officers on the force. Twenty-four percent of Plaistow police officers are women, higher than many police departments in the area.

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