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APD motorcycle cops go through escort training months after death of Amir Khaliq

The Austin Police Department closed off nearly 20 miles of roads Wednesday morning for escort training that’s taken on more meaning after the death of a motorcycle cop last year. (CBS Austin)

The Austin Police Department closed off nearly 20 miles of roads Wednesday morning for escort training that’s taken on more meaning after the death of a motorcycle cop last year.

When a president or other dignitary comes to Austin, the police department is charged with taking them around town. On Wednesday they trained for those motorcades.

“It’s critically important,” APD Sgt. Andrew Westbrook said.

The annual training brought in more than 50 motorcycle cops from APD, Lakeway, Hays County and Highway Patrol. The motorcycle cops learned how to block off roads as a fake convoy, that included a bus, firetruck and other police vehicles, drove through South Austin.

“Our goal is to go through the process of where to stop, how to stop, how to work an intersection, how to block it off and once you’ve completed a task how to get back in and line back up again,” Westbrook said.

Westbrook says the goal is to keep the public safe, the "package" safe and the cops safe.

Supervisors on the bus watched each cop as they closed roads. They made sure they were in the exact right spot. That includes the angle, position and movements of each motorcycle.

“It’s like a large choreographed dance,” Westbrook said.

“A lot of moving parts and we all have to be on the same page that’s why practice is very important,” APD Supervisor Delone Artley said.

Each officer has to be in the exact right spot. That’s because officers speed up to the front after blocking streets. That amount of moving parts and speed can cause a crash.

Artley says escorts are one of the most dangerous things motorcycle cops can do. That’s because a car can speed through the middle of an escort and hit a cop speeding by.

That danger became reality when officer Amir Khaliq was killed in September, 2016 in a funeral procession.

“I would be lying if I said we weren’t thinking about Officer Amir Khaliq,” Westbrook said. “His death was tragic and it hurt all of us and it still hurts everybody.”

“It definitely is something a reminder that brings home the severity, the serious nature of what we do and the dangers we face as police motorcycle officers every day,” he said.

That’s why Westbrook asks drivers to never speed through a procession.

“The only thing I would ever ask the public is please be patient, we have a job to do that we’re required to do and we want to do it as safely for the citizens as well as for the officers involved. Just a little bit of patience,” Westbrook said.

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