Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Motorcycle Drill Team will perform in its seventh inauguration on Friday
No one is more excited than Bret McAtee about the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Motorcycle Drill Team performing in Friday’s Presidential Inauguration Parade.
That’s because the event is colossal and McAtee is commander and drill master of the team, which is making its seventh appearance in the parade, the first being when John F. Kennedy was inaugurated in 1961.
“Riding before the president is the biggest thing we can do,” McAtee said last week while celebrating his 13th wedding anniversary with wife Nicole in sunny and beautiful Jamaica. “I don’t care who the president is, it is an honor to ride before him.”
A sergeant with the department and a 1979 graduate of Perry Meridian High School, he has been a member of the team since 1983 and performed in the inauguration parade for Bill Clinton in 1993.
“I committed to the drill team at an early age, and I have stuck with it. I have devoted a great deal of my time to the team. I love creating new maneuvers,” said McAtee, who is flying into Washington, D.C., today with his 19 fellow riders. The hauler with the 20 motorcycles departed Indianapolis Tuesday.
The team is staying at the Grand Hyatt, where it will present a static display Thursday.
Friday will be a long day for the riders as they will report to the staging area around 3:30 a.m., nearly 12 hours before their performance. “It was also like that when we performed for President Clinton,” McAtee said.
The team rides Harley-Davidson Road King police motorcycles – which they use in the their daily traffic enforcement duties – and unless its raining or snowing Friday, McAtee will ensure that they are spotless. “I inspect all the bikes before every performance. New riders have asked me how clean their bikes have to be, and I say, ‘As clean as my mine.’ ” And all the veterans know what that means – immaculate.
“The team performs on its own time and serves as a goodwill ambassador for Indianapolis while strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and the public. I take a great deal of pride in that. Fourteen of our riders have more than 10 years of experience; our riders are 24 to 60 years old.”
The squad also performs at the 500 Festival Parade, festivals, children’s hospitals, schools and other worthy events, where the riders are often treated like rock stars.
“People tell us that they love us. Those people sure make us feel good about what we do,” McAtee said. “If people have a better feeling about the police – particularly motorcycle officers – after we perform, then we have done our job.”
The team, which was founded about 60 years ago, executes a multitude of precise and difficult drills requiring months of practice and choreography. The thrilling performances require concentration and athletic ability to maneuver the 800-pound precision machines. While performing, 12 motorcycles carry a letter so officers can position their bikes to spell Indianapolis or Indiana.
“I’m always mixing up our routines so our performances stay fresh,” McAtee said. “There are 34 formations that we can do, but we can’t perform all of them at some shows because the streets are too narrow. We will be more limited in what we can do at the inauguration parade because it is such a controlled setting.”
“There was a time when we did more than 30 shows a year, but we are full-time traffic officers first and foremost. As the number of special events has increased in Indianapolis, more demands have been placed on our time as traffic officers. We did 14 shows last year,” which included the Blossomtime Festival Parade in Michigan and the Mountain State Forest Festival in West Virginia. The team has also performed at the Orange, Fiesta and Holiday bowls, the Kentucky Derby and in New Orleans, Honolulu and Australia.
Expenses are funded by donations from individuals and businesses.
Southsiders who will see the team perform along Pennsylvania Avenue include Jeff Cardwell, former Indiana Republican Party chair and owner of Cardwell Do-it Best Home Center, Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers, state Sens. Jack Sandlin and Aaron Freeman, Katy Gilson, an assistant to Gov. Eric Holcomb, and WTHR-TV Channel 13 reporter Carlos Diaz, a Greenwood native.
When not busy patrolling the streets, McAtee can often be seen riding one of his three Harleys ... if he’s not busy building his custom chopper.
He and several of his buddies go on 4,000-miles rides every summer, having gone as far west as Wyoming. “It’s what we love to do.”
McAtee isn’t the only motorcycle enthusiast in his family. His father, former IPD Chief and Marion County Sheriff Joe McAtee, and brother, Bart McAtee, were members of the team.
“The drill team will do Indy proud in D.C.,” Bret McAtee boasted.