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Gary Smith

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Gary Smith “was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, and migrated to Southern California at age 14 with his family. Gary attended Whittier High School in Whittier, CA, graduating in 1955. In 1954, he joined the United States Air Force Reserve and served eight years stationed in Long Beach and Riverside, CA and received an Honorable Discharge in 1963.  Gary married his high school sweetheart in 1956 at age nineteen. He took a job with an oil-drilling tool manufacturer in Whittier, CA, and worked there until the company moved to Texas. With a pregnant wife and just having moved into a new home, Gary declined the move to Texas and started looking for a permanent job.

He saw an ad in the TV Guide that promoted a career in police work. The more he thought about it, the more interesting the thought became. After passing his police exams to become an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, Gary entered the LAPD Academy in the fall of 1958. He was 21 years old at the time. Gary had been a motorcycle enthusiast since his early teens and longed to become a motorcycle officer on the LAPD. The motorcycle squad was an elite group of men who had to pass several tests of knowledge and experience, as well as pass an exhaustive riding school. Many of these officers were veterans of WWII and the Korean War and reminded Gary of some of the dashing heroes in war movies about fighter pilots.

After attaining the experience of over two years working in a downtown LA patrol car and walking several foot beats, he applied for the motorcycle position. He entered the motorcycle training school in January of 1961. Although he was a proficient rider on his own bike, the LAPD had its own riding methods and policies. At the end of the challenging three-week training school, he went to work in the Traffic Enforcement Division of the LAPD patrolling the metropolitan parts of LA., which included Hollywood, South-Central and East LA, on streets and on the freeways. From the beginning of his sixteen years on the motor squad to the end, it was a mixture of comedy, terror, and an education in human relations that made writing this book necessary.

The public knows little of the stresses and hazards of being a motorcycle officer in a big city. The period in which Gary worked on the LAPD was fraught with riots and demonstrations of the Civil Rights era of the USA. It was a changing world.

Motorcycle cops work in a hazardous environment in which accidents are an everyday occurrence. Gary soon found out that it was no easy task to operate a big motorcycle and look for traffic violations and issue citations or make arrests. In 1971 while working a special assignment, he was involved in a serious accident caused by a person who made an illegal turn. For Gary, the accident resulted in two broken ankles, a fractured heel, and a broken wrist. He made a fast recovery and returned to the squad.

During his years on the motorcycle squad, he participated in the motorcycle escorts of the President and Vice President of the United States, as well as numerous other national and international dignitaries. He also participated in the 1965 Watts Riot.  During his career as an officer, Gary gained a teaching credential and became a certified motorcycle instructor in a national program. In 1976, Gary transferred to a plain clothed job for the remaining years on the job.

Upon his service retirement after 23 years on the job, he was offered a position in the motorcycle division of American Honda Motor Company at the corporate offices. Gary’s work at Honda included serving as a motorcycle safety instructor and as Honda’s representative on the Board of Trustees of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). He also served on the Motorcycle Industry Council’s Land-Use Committee for off-highway recreation. He became an All-Terrain Vehicle Instructor and published two motorcycle related articles in a national motorcycle enthusiast magazine.

While at Honda, Gary was promoted to Assistant Manager of the Rider Education Department and The Honda Riders Club of America and was involved in event promotions and motorcycle rallies. His most enjoyable duty was to help to develop and manage a national motorcycle rally that, until its discontinuance, attracted as many as 25,000 attendees annually from 1993 until 2007.”  Gary Smith is the author of The BCMC: The Big City Motor Cop.

According to the book description of The BCMC: The Big City Motor Cop, “A young, idealistic young man from Iowa comes to California to join the Los Angeles Police Department in the late 1950s. The country is in the beginning of the Civil Rights era and many cities are in turmoil. After a two-year stint in street patrol in downtown Los Angeles, Pete Felix achieves his goal of becoming a motorcycle officer. His fellow officers call themselves The BCMC: The Big City Motor Cop.

Readers will relive the turbulent 60s as Pete Felix, a young motorcycle officer in Los Angeles, narrates his sixteen years on the LA Police Department motorcycle squad. Laugh, cry, be frightened, all the while learning interesting facts about law enforcement. Meet salty, old-time officers and rookies who will each tell a story of the exciting and dangerous life of a Big City Motor Cop. The names have been changed, but the tales are true.

Pete opens his police story with the chilling and most dangerous motorcycle police action: a pursuit. He describes his thoughts and actions as he chases the suspects and tries to stay alive while doing it. As the story unfolds, readers will get a picture of the private conversations and relationships between the officers with whom Pete works in the various phases of his career.”

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