By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Every day before going to school, Brad Williams would tune into TNT to watch CHiPs.
CHiPs chronicled the fictitious lives of motorcycle patrol officers Frank "Ponch" Poncherello and Jonathan "Jon" Baker.
"I wanted to be more like Jon," Williams said. "Well, as a kid, I wanted to be ‘Ponch,' but if you act like ‘Ponch,' you can crash."
Williams, a trooper for Illinois State District 20, is getting a chance to be West-Central Illinois' version of Ponch or Jon. On Monday, he became the district's first full-time motorcycle patrol officer in 14 years.
"You're about invisible out here on a bike," said Williams, who has been with the Illinois State Police for 5 1/2 years. "You can see more violations when you're on the bike. We're looking for texting and cell phone use."
Williams said curbing distractive driving is one of the Illinois State Police's highest priorities right now. He said riding a motorcycle gives him a better look into cars when he passes them.
"Distractive driving causes more crashes than everyone realizes," Williams said "This bike gives us a good opportunity to find more of those violations."
Williams is the first motorcycle trooper in District 20 since Lt. Brad Lacey served in that capacity from 1997-98.
"It was probably the two funnest years I've had in the department," Lacey said of his motorcycle days.
Lacey sees many benefits in reintroducing a motorcycle to District 20's fleet.
"They're a good community relations tool," Lacey said. "Let's say you see a group of kids in a parking lot. If you pull up in a squad car, their first thought is ‘What's going on?' People are more open to a motorcycle. They like to look at the Harley-Davidson."
Lacey said the motorcycle, a 2012 Harley-Davidson Police Electra Glide, also will be used in parades and for escorts.
Lacey had seen first-hand from his days of riding the bike what it can mean for enforcement efforts.
"People just don't look for motorcycles," he said. "I could tell you stories of people going right by me and doing things they shouldn't be doing. They go by me, see that I'm an officer and it's too late."
Williams will cover Adams, Brown, Pike, Schuyler and Scott counties. He had to go through two weeks of training in the Collinsville area before beginning his duties in the district. A long-time motorcycle rider, Williams jumped at the chance to get out of his squad car and on to the bike.
"I've been bugging Lt. Lacey about it for more than a year," Williams said.
Lacey was happy to give Williams the opportunity.
"I knew he had his own personal bike and puts in a lot of miles. I knew he would be suited perfectly for it," Lacey said. "It will be his cup of tea. It will be a good tool for us to use not only for enforcement but help down break down some of those barriers when it comes to community relations."
Williams will patrol on his motorcycle as long as the weather permits. He said the only thing that would keep him off it are slick road conditions.
In his short time patrolling on the bike, Williams said he's already raising some eyebrows.
"I'm surprising more people up here (than in Collinsville)," he said. "It's pretty neat."