Meet two more deputies in the 12th Extreme Motor Officer Training Challenge
If anyone walks into the Carson City Sheriff’s Office, off to the right is a display case filled with rows of Motor Challenge trophies and most of those trophies have one name: Thomas Miller.
After being on the Motor Unit for only about three years, Miller has nearly 20 trophies he has collected from officer training challenges from all over the country.
“I won most of the competitions we went to last year so we will see how I do this year,” Miller said. T
Though he is so successful in most of his competitions, Miller is humble about it and just looks forward to getting to compete and train in the 12th annual Extreme Officer Motor Training Challenge takes place today and Saturday in downtown Carson City.
“Last year, I was on an old bike, and this year I’m on a new one so I am still learning it and it’s a little different so I am sure I will have some good competition,” Miller said.
Miller started his police career 13 years ago in Alpine County in California, but decided to move back to his hometown of Carson City after just two years.
“I know a lot of people and a lot of the businesses here, so it’s easy for me to communicate with the people and maybe understand a little bit more what they are going through being from here,” Miller said. “This is where I grew up so this is where I want to work.”
Motors is one of many special details Miller has been a part of during his 11 years with the Carson City Sheriff’s Office, including SWAT, TriNet, honor guard and as a firearms instructor.
He started on the motor unit three years ago and is one of the instructors of the unit.
“I switched to motors a little bit because I wanted to try it and a little bit because I have always had an interest in bikes since I was six,” Miller said. “And you get paid to ride a Harley, so you can’t really beat that.”
Though he loves getting to ride the Harley, Miller said it can be difficult to be on the bike for such long hours as a police officer.
“The long hours on the bike wears on you, I noticed I am a lot more tired and fatigued at the end of the day being on the bike than being on the car,” Miller said. “It’s tiring from your awareness all day long. You are still aware in a car, but you are even more so on the bike because you are a lot more vulnerable with other cars and people so your awareness is up. The heat just drains you; the hot summer days with our gear on, the heat from the bike, the heat from the road.”
Heat will be a big factor this weekend as Miller and his fellow motors deputies ride in 100 degree heat for the Extreme Motor Officer Training Challenge. All eyes will be on Miller and Deputy Joey Trotter to see who will take home first place.
“Miller and I are close, last time we were on a time course against each other we were .2 milliseconds away from each other,” Trotter said. “It just takes one little hiccup or cone bump to get you out of the running.”
Miller’s favorite competition is the main timed obstacle course because it allows him to see what he can do on the bike.
“You get to see your own skill set and it’s fun because it is just you and everything you’ve got,” Miller said. “Though I am excited about the event in general. It is just coming together well, with the brewfest and all the little competitions, it’s just all fun and it gets a bunch of people downtown hanging out and having a good time.”
Meet Gary Denham: The conqueror
If anyone wants to know the way to Gary Denham’s heart, he says it’s long walks on the beach, Payday candy bars or a hot cooked meal.
You wouldn’t think such a sensitive guy could be hiding in the body of a man who used to be called The Viking in his undercover operations.
Denham is a police officer who has seen the dark side of humanity in his 25 years, serving in several law enforcement departments including undercover narcotics and burglary, homicide and crimes against children. Now he has decided to try his hand on the motor unit in Carson City.
Besides the fact Denham hadn’t ridden a bike in three decades, he decided he wanted to give the motor unit a shot.
“The only thing I had never done was ride a police motorcycle and I thought, ‘I’m going to do that,’” Denham said. “I have never been on a motorcycle, I used to ride on a dirt bike as a kid but that was 30 years ago, so all my buddies were like ‘you are going to freaking kill yourself’ and I’m like I don’t care.”
May 19 marked one year for Denham on the Carson City Sheriff’s Motor Unit, but it was a long road to get there for him.
“It was incredibly difficult,” Denham said. “There were more than two handfuls of time that I was in the bath tub, sore, bruised, cut, bandaged up where I thought this is not for me because I am the type of guy that I know what my limits are and I was like I can’t do this. I would think about turning left, crash; I would think about turning right, crash; I would get off the bike, forget to put the kickstand down, crash. It was just crash, after crash, after crash.“
But instead of quitting, Denham took his failures and used them as motivation to get better on the bike. He actually failed his first attempt at the motor school all motor deputies have to go through, but he worked with Deputy Matt Smith, practiced for four hours a day and conquered his second school with flying colors.
“I couldn’t quit, it was kicking my ass so I wanted to continue,” Denham said. “So I thought no way, I’m not going to let this thing beat me, I’m not going to quit. No freaking way.”
It was still rough for Denham with his first competition, because he graduated motor school a month before his first competition in which he ended up getting last in the competition because he was the slowest rider. But after that, he went to competitions in Scotts Valley and San Diego where he didn’t get last and actually started winning trophies.
“I started winning and I was like what the heck?” Denham said. “For me, it was I could see myself getting progressively better and that’s what these competitions do because there is no room for error because you can either make it through the pattern or you cannot and if you can’t you get penalized for that so they make you make that super tight turn or that super tight U-turn.”
Denham is excited for the upcoming Carson City competition because what he learns during the challenges makes him a better police officer.
“The competition makes you so much of a better rider and everything that we do in the competitions can be correlated to the streets,” Denham said. “Because I practice in the competitions, I know how to avoid getting into a crash and I know what my bike can do and I know what I can do to my bike to make it do certain things and I know what I can’t. It’s just certain sounds and feelings that you know what is about to happen.”
Even though he’s nearly 47 years old in a group of 20 and 30 year olds, Denham doesn’t feel like his age outcasts him from the group.
“You would think I should be the voice of reason, I should be like no we shouldn’t do that because there are possible dangers and ramifications, so follow me!” Denham said. “But I’m not looked at like that. I am just like one of the guys.”