In December of last year, the Windsor Police Service became the first police department in Canada to purchase a fleet of Victory Motorcycles.
The department is changing its fleet of bikes from Harley-Davidson to Victory. It now owns six of each brand.
The decision irks the staff at local Harley-Davidson dealer Thunder Road Harley-Davidson.
Owner Chris O'Neil and general manager Robert Reeb each said the Harley-Davidson never got a chance to bid on the contract. They claim the Windsor Police Service never tendered out the contract to supply the bikes.
However, there was a public request for tender the local dealership wasn't aware of. Windsor Police director of planning and physical resources, Barry Horrobin, said it was done through the police cooperative purchasing group, a consortium of Ontario police departments created to obtain cheaper pricing by buying in bulk.
In this case, Waterloo Regional Police was also interested in new bikes.
"We took advantage of their competitive process," Horrobin said.
Horrobin "guaranteed" that Harley-Davidson Canada bid on the contract, but in the end, lost out.
"The manufacturer called the shot. Their company had every chance to bid on it and did," Horrobin said of Thunder Road's supplier.
A call to Harley-Davidson Canada wasn't immediately returned.
Windsor Police spokesperson Sgt. Brett Corey said that, in the end, the decision to switch was primarily a financial one.
The department purchased six bikes last year. Each cost nearly $7,000 less than Harley-Davidson ones, according to Corey.
O'Neil said Harley-Davidson supplied bikes through his dealership to the Windsor Police Service in the past, at a cost of approximately $16,000 each. He found it hard to believe a bike could be provided to the department for $9,000, which would be the approximate cost based on the savings Corey claimed.
Former fleet manager Bill Hunt and former Windsor Police Chief Gary Smith signed off on the new deal. Both have since retired.
The two came to the decision after a pair of officers travelled to Victory headquarters in Tuscon, Ariz., where the two officer test drove the bikes.
Mechanics from Victory will train mechanics employed by the City of Windsor to service the bikes.
"We don't have to contract out the service," Corey said. "It will be a significant cost reduction."
Local dealer on the outs
"As a local taxpayer, an employer and supporter of Windsor ... it’s very disheartening," Reeb said of the decision.
Thunder Road Harley-Davidson employs 16 people. His shop has been providing the Windsor Police bikes and service for 17 years.
"The riders and police officers were always proud of the Harley-Davidson motorcycles they rode. We always provided priority and efficient service for them," Reeb said. "We have a proven track record."
Reeb said 90 per cent of police motorcycles in North America are provided by Harley-Davidson.
Since Windsor made the switch, departments in Lethbridge, Alta., and Victoria, B.C. have done the same.
The decision ruffled feathers in Victoria. In Windsor, bike enthusiasts immediately noticed the change, according to Corey.
He said people noticed the change and commented when officers debuted the new bikes during the Santa Claus Parade.
'To each their own'
CBC News sought out bike enthusiasts Wednesday night but couldn't find a Victory owner.
Ron Haskell, though, has been riding Harley-Davidson bikes for 45 years.
"If you don’t ride a Harley, you don’t ride a motorcycle," he said. "To each their own, but a Harley’s a Harley. There’s nothing like a Harley. They’re the ultimate."
He didn't criticize the Windsor Police for their decision to switch, though.
"Money came into play, I guess," he said.
Steve Zan rides a Honda. He used to own a Yamaha. And he's never owned either a Victory or Harley.
"If that’s what they’re comfortable with and for money purposes, that’s what they’re going to do," he said of Windsor Police. "It's their choice."