People on Richland County’s roads may recognize the sheriff’s department’s newest motorcycle cop by the long, blond ponytail hanging out of her helmet.
Richland County Sheriff’s Department Senior Deputy Kristin Boyles last month became the Midlands first female motorcycle cop when she passed a rigorous course given by the S.C. Highway Patrol. Only three of the six officers in the class received their certification.
“The instructor told me that at the start I could drive a motorcycle in a straight line,” she said. “Now, I can ride a motorcycle.”
Boyles, 42, is a five-year veteran of the sheriff’s department. She grew up riding motorcycles with her father and uncles. The opportunity to be a part of the sheriff department’s motorcycle units came open when the department received a grant to buy two additional Harley-Davidsons. Now, she is the envy of all the men in her family.
Q. What was the most difficult part of the Highway Patrol’s course?
Learning how to turn over on the motorcycle, Boyles said. She grew up learning that a motorcycle rider never turned over a bike.
“You don’t drop a Harley,” she said.
But she had to get used to dropping her sheriff’s department motorcycle while learning to navigate her 860-pound Harley through tight turns and circles during drills.
“If I drop it in a traffic stop I’m going to deal with my traffic stop first,” she said. “I’ve got a job to do. I can pick up the motorcycle later.”
Q. What has been the reaction from people who realize you’re are a woman on a sheriff’s department motorcycle?
“I had a 50- or 60-year-old woman drive up to me at a stop light and roll down her window and say, ‘You go girl! I’m so proud of you.’”
Boyles said her fellow deputies like to tease her about the new-found fame. They also ask if they can take a ride on her Harley.
“Oh, they’re jealous,” she said. “I’m telling them that when it’s 100 degrees out there I’m going to ask them to come ride again. Then, it’s not so cool.”
Q. What is your day like?
“Every morning, I check out the motorcycle — the wheels, the cables, the levers, the lights. I make sure everything is in order.”
If Boyles is working a morning shift, she begins by patrolling a school zone and then moves into neighborhoods or busy roads where she has been assigned.
“The bike is great in neighborhoods because it’s not as visible. If they see you in a car, they slow down. They don’t see the bike.”
Q. What happens when it rains?
“We also have Dodge Chargers, so we don’t have to ride in extremely foul weather.”
Q. What is your best piece of advice for other drivers?
“Get off the phone and open your eyes and your ears. Every incident or close call I’ve had on a motorcycle, someone has been on their cell phone.”
Q. What model Harley is your sheriff’s department motorcycle?
“An Electra Glide”
Q. What motorcycle do you have at home?
“A Harley-Davidson Dyna Low Rider. It’s black with burgundy pinstripes.”
Q. What’s the difference between riding the two Harleys?
“It’s like riding a Cadillac versus a tricycle.” (The tricycle is HERS.)
Q. What else do you do for fun?
“I skydive four or five times a year. I run and workout, too.”
Q. Tell us about the upcoming competition.
“It’s June 16-19 in Charleston. It’s sponsored by the Charleston County Sheriff’s Department and it’s called the Palmetto Motor Skills Competition. It’s a fundraiser, and police departments from all over the Southeast participate. They test our survival skills, and there’s course riding. There are three divisions: novice, intermediate and advanced. And there’s three categories of bikes. You get points deducted for putting your foot down or knocking down cones. If you drop your bike, you fail.”