Gates take to the streets as TPD’s first Black female motor patrol officer
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Inspired by what she saw the day she shadowed veteran motor patrol officer Henni Hamby, Tyesha Gates decided to give it a try.
She quickly found out that patrolling on a motorcycle wasn’t as easy as Hamby made it appear. Hamby was the first woman in the Tallahassee Police Department to do motor patrolling.
After two grueling weeks of training, which was sometimes gut-wrenching, Gates is also in the TPD history books. A little more than a month ago, she became the first Black female TPD officer to patrol on a motorcycle.
Gates was the only applicant for the only opening in the unit of nine motorcycles. She feels honored to be the first Black female on the motorcycle homicide unit, but she said it doesn’t define her.
“A woman can do anything that she puts her mind to,” she said. “If she works hard and pushes through she can accomplish anything.”
Part of Gates’ challenge was keeping a 700-pound Harley-Davidson upright. She was good enough to get through the training, but she is still working every day at bike-control, she said.
Getting through the training unscarred is an accomplishment, said Damon Miller, TPD’s public information officer who took the motor patrol course several years ago.
“It’s just trying,” he said. “I still have scrapes on my elbow now. But the good thing about it is when you’re finished that feeling is like when I finished the academy. A lot of people have tried before but they haven’t made it.”
It took some doing for Gates to get her nerves up for the grind of having to perfect techniques while following a specified route through lines and circles of orange cones.
Miller just happened to be at the training site when Gates was going through one of the tougher routes known as the “snow man.” He recalled how her reaction when he offered words of encouragement.
“I told her you can do it,” he said. “I saw her jaw drop.”
Another skill that she had to work extremely hard at was making a u-turn inside a space the width of a traffic lane.
“It’s more mental,” said Gates, who’s in her eighth year as a police officer. “You are doing things on that bike that your mind tells you you can’t do. But you realize you have to get over the mental part more than anything else.”
Unknowingly, Gates was preparing herself for the task of being a motor patrol officer. She owned a motorcycle up until a year ago.
She also has plenty of experience as a patrol officer, having spent the first three years of her career making the round in car patrol. She moved to the traffic unit four years ago.
As a motor patrol officer, her duties now include investigating traffic homicides.
Gates, a mother of two children ages 9 and 15, worked several jobs when she came to Tallahassee from her native Jersey City, N.J. Her stops on the way to becoming a police officer included being a bus driver for eight years and working as a receptionist.
Now she leaves home trying to prevent accidents or getting dangerous drivers off of the streets. Her husband and children remind her to be safe on the job.
But Gates prefers not to think of what could be.
“They are going to continue saying ‘be safe,’ but if I live my life wondering (and) being on edge, I’m never going to have any fun with my experiences.”