Police chief to spend vacation working biker rally
Annual motorcycle gathering in Sturgis, S.D., a taste of big city for Jody Lenahan
August 1, 2006
Hayden — Hayden Police Chief Jody Lenahan doesn’t ride motorcycles any more – he broke his neck riding one when he was 15 – but he has attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally for the past 10 years.
On Thursday, Lenahan will leave Hayden for his working vacation in Sturgis, S.D., for the 66th annual rally Aug. 7 to 13. One of the first things he will do is be sworn in as a special officer of the Sturgis Police Department.
“It’s a different type of police work than Hayden,” Lenahan said. “You deal with hundreds of people a day. Here, it’s only five or 10 a day.”
He will work nine 12-hour days with about 200 other officers, many of whom come from around the country and are hired on as additional help for the rally, Lenahan said.
The Sturgis police are veterans when it comes to safety at the rally.
“They have a whole policy manual just on running the rally,” Lenahan said.
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Last year, Lenahan was recognized with a plaque for 10 years of service at the rally.
He called the rally “a real experience” and said it is a good opportunity to meet up with some old friends and get a taste of big-city police work.
Lenahan works the day shift at the rally. Work starts at 6 a.m.
“It’s really quiet and we just check everything out,” he said.
The police have a morning briefing, usually grab breakfast at McDonalds around 8 a.m. and continue their patrols around town.
The police on duty during the day shift will answer questions from people attending the rally, give directions and respond to any traffic accidents.
“It’s constant calls,” Lenahan said.
They will escort groups of motorcyclists through town and issue tickets to bikes that are illegally parked and have them towed.
At the rally, he brushes shoulders with the Hell’s Angels and Band-idos motorcycle gang members.
“It’s pretty peaceful,” Lenahan said. “We show them respect, they show us respect and there are usually no problems.”
Scantily-clad women, booze and partying are rampant in the downtown streets of Sturgis during the rally.
More than 500,000 people attended last year in Sturgis, which has a permanent population of about 6,500 people.
After working all day, the day shift will retire to the six-story senior citizens apartment building downtown where they sleep four officers to a room.
Night life for the day shift always includes a stop at Big Bad Bertha’s Biker Bar, a cop hang-out that opens every year just for the rally.
“It’s probably the cheapest beer in town,” Lenahan said. “It’s a hole-in-the-wall” bar.
Working at the Sturgis Motor-cycle Rally is an event Lenahan looks forward to each year.
“I wouldn’t want to be a big-city cop,” he said, “but it’s nice to have that experience.”
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