Carson City Sheriff’s Motor Unit ready for challenge | NevadaAppeal.com

Carson City Sheriff’s Motor Unit ready for challenge

Deputies Matt Smith and Joey Trotter stand next to their motor bikes during a dirt bike demonstration. Smith and Trotter are two of the five deputies in the Carson City Sheriff's Office's Motor Unit, where they use motorcycles and dirt bikes in lieu of traditional police vehicles.
Taylor Pettaway |

Many people think that getting to ride a motorcycle all day for work would be nothing but fun and games, however for the Carson City Sheriff’s Office’s Motor Unit it’s hard work, long training and of course, a little bit of fun.

Five deputies make up the Motor Unit that combines their passion for bikes and police work. For the Motor Unit, instead of being in a car, they spend most of their time on motorcycles or dirt bikes conducting traffic stops, clearing accidents and responding to calls instead of in the police cars.

In honor of the 12th annual Extreme Officer Motor Training Challenge, meet two of the deputies who make up the Motor Unit and who will be representing Carson City in the challenge on June 26.

Meet Matt Smith: The Strategist

Like many of the guys in the Motor Unit, Matt Smith’s desire to be a motor deputy came from his love of anything with two wheels, so four years ago he decided to join the motor traffic division.

“I have been riding since I was a kid and now since I get a chance to do law enforcement on top of a motorcycle, at the first opportunity I had and I was like I’m doing that,” Smith said. “I think this is the best job in the department is being on motors, I think it is the most coveted and envied job, too.”

Even though he gets to ride all day for work, Smith makes sure his days off are spent on two wheels as well.

“I like motorcycle riding, I have been getting into dirt bike riding as well; that is my weekend hobby for when it is nice on my days off,” Smith said. “I try to stay as physically fit as possible and I like to go up in the hills and go mountain biking, again anything with two wheels.”

But for Smith, the joy of being in the Motors Unit goes past the bike; it allows him to be continually thinking along the way. As a lover of puzzles, getting to work unique aspects such as traffic accidents, allows Smith to look at law enforcement in a different way.

“I really enjoy the aspect of looking into an accident because it’s like a puzzle,” Smith said. “You get to sit here and play with it and work things out as to how this happened and the reasons it happened, so you can recreate it and I have always enjoyed that as well.”

Looking at the puzzles behind things comes in handy during Smith’s favorite Motors Challenge event, The Last Man Standing. The game consists of all participating officers in a box of cones and they ride around while trying to get the other players to put their foot down or drop their bike to become the last man standing in the box.

“It is very strategic how you play the game and that’s why I like that one the most,” Smith said. “It is about how you strategize to take your opponent out.”

As one of the senior members of the team, Smith usually places in the top 10 in the Motor Challenges, but this year, he has some friendly competition with Motors newcomer Deputy Gary Denham.

“There is an unofficial hierarchy but the competition is definitely at an all time high because we are always pushing each other to be better and faster and it’s a friendly competition,” Smith said. “I’ll work with someone to progress and our last training day Gary was one second behind me and I was like wow, I have got to start pushing myself now.”

“If Gary is close to my time again, I’ll beat him again,” Smith added chuckling. “I will always find a way to beat him.”

But for Smith, that competition is motivation to improve his time and skills on the police bike.

“It’s a never ending process of learning,” Smith said. “I always thought I was a pretty good rider before this and now I’m like wow I have a lot to learn. You teach yourself to push yourself to that next level and continue to push yourself up that ladder of skills.”

Meet Joey Trotter: The Teacher

Ten years ago, Joey Trotter decided to become a police officer after seeing a Nevada State Highway trooper working on Highway 580. At the time, Trotter was working as a heating and air conditioning technician and decided he needed a career change.

“I was driving down the roadway, and that was in 2005 with all the flooding, so everyday I was going out digging out nasty muddy duct work and stuff (as a technician),” Trotter said. “I was driving out to do a house in Reno and I saw an NHP Trooper sitting under the bridge and I thought ‘he is getting paid for that right now, what am I doing here?’ I looked into it and it really interested me so I signed up for the academy.”

One of the things that interested Trotter about being a deputy was the fact the officers were always helping people, and now he’s not only a Carson City Sheriff’s deputy, but he has been one of the lead instructors for the Motors Unit for over a year.

“Its stressful at times, but I love it,” Trotter said. “I have loved motorcycles my entire life and I have always wanted to be a professional motorcycle rider and my wife always told me I would never be one and I had to prove her wrong.”

As an instructor, Trotter is in charge of keeping the other guys in the unit trained and certified for their police motorcycles.

“Motorcycling is a perishable skill, they say it’s like riding a bike you never forget and it’s true you never forget the basics but every year if we are off for a couple months, it feels really weird and uncomfortable and unnatural,” Trotter said. “We recertify twice a year to make sure our skills are safe enough to keep us safe on the road.”

Trotter has been riding bikes since he was six years old, starting his love with dirt bikes.

“Next to my family it’s the love of my life,” Trotter said. “Dirt biking to me is like utter chaos and when you are able to keep that under somewhat of a control that is what makes you good. To me when you are on a dirt bike and going fast, you are out of control but if your skill levels allow you not to crash, it’s hard.”

Control is the name of the game for Trotter and the other deputies, because as a police officer on a motorcycle, the potential for danger increases significantly.

“(Motors) is one of the most dangerous things you could be doing as a police officer so we all get together and take it serious (during our Motors Training Challenges),” Trotter said. “I know it looks like we are having a lot of fun, which it is fun, but when we are training we do take it seriously because (riding) could be a life or death situation that you have to get yourself out of. It happens on a daily basis, someone hits you or runs you over and you are hopefully able to out maneuver it.”

Being on the bike for so long is what makes Trotter such a good instructor for the other deputies. Trotter hopes to bring his skills to the Motors Competition to help other deputies and agencies improve their skills.

“I hope that I can assist other guys and hope they leave our training with some new ideas and new skills and just to have fun,” Trotter said. “That’s one of the main things that I learned with it is to have fun with the new ideas and sills that you are learning, it enforces it better and you are able to actually use it and remember them and that’s why these things are fun, but its stressful.”

When this instructor isn’t at work, he’s caring for a different team: his kids, 2 1/2-year-old Lilly and 9-month-old Maximus.

“That’s what I am doing is being a dad at home,” Trotter said. “Everyday that I am going to work, my daughter asks ‘are you going to work to catch bad guys on your motorcycle?’ and I’m just like yep, just going to work.”