Serving in the Hilliard Division of Police's traffic-safety unit is a dream come true for Brandon Long.

Many motorists snaking through the increasing number of traffic roundabouts in Hilliard don't notice him.

But Brandon Long, the Hilliard Division of Police's first and currently only motorcycle officer, is watching.

On a recent shift, usually from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Long took four accident reports, made five traffic stops after posting himself near a roundabout and patrolled other areas of the city.

"There are no blind spots," he said, adding it is not difficult to observe people texting while driving.

Like other officers, Long said, he can use discretion whether to issue a warning or a citation.

But enforcement isn't his only role in the community; his flat-black Victory-manufactured motorcycle has proved a community-relations boon.

"I was sitting in traffic behind a driver at a red light and he leans halfway out the window and says, 'Hey, is that a Harley?' " Long said. "It's a great bridge for conversation."

It's a magnet for children, too.

After a demonstration in June at Safety Town, Long said, he had to shut off the motorcycle so the students could focus on the next instruction.

Earlier this month during the division's National Night Out at Tinapple Park, the Victory motorcycle was one of the most popular attractions, too.

For Long, being the first member of Hilliard's traffic-safety unit "is a dream come true."

Motorcycles have been a lifelong love for the 37-year-old.

Long, who graduated from Hilliard Davidson High School in 1998, said he spent a considerable amount of his free time as a child on a dirt bike, riding winding trails in Vinton County in southeastern Ohio.

"I've seen every episode of CHiPs at least once ... and still watch reruns," Long said about the TV show that aired from 1977 to 1983 and featured a pair of California Highway Patrol officers on motorcycles.

The division made a video of Long re-enacting the TV show's opening montage, complete with the theme song and substituting Hilliard's roundabouts for the Los Angeles freeway interchanges. The video is posted on the police division's Facebook page and on YouTube.

Long, a U.S. Air Force veteran who joined the division in 2011, was one of four members of the traffic-safety unit who began training last year in Kansas.

The unit was training in Columbus on May 29, 2016, when an accident occurred on the flyover ramp from Interstate 270 south to eastbound state Route 161.

Sean Johnson, 46, was killed. He is the only Hilliard officer known to have died in the line of duty since the division was created in 1960.

At that point, Chief Bobby Fisher said the division would take the time that was necessary before resuming plans for the unit.

"The intent of creating the traffic-safety unit from the beginning was due to the fact that we continue to see more residents (and) more businesses in Hilliard; we're a growing community," Fisher said. "The number of people that are walking, the number of people that are driving, is going to continue to grow."

Further, such new developments as Landmark Lofts are focused on enhancing pedestrian and bicycle use through multiuse paths connecting businesses and residential areas.

"As the community grows, so does the number of traffic crashes (and) the need for a traffic-safety unit is very much apparent," Fisher said. "Being able to focus those efforts under one group of officers made sense."

For now, Long is the only member.

No additional officers are expected to join him this year, Fisher said, but a second officer is expected to begin training in 2018.

Long began training in April and after completing an 80-hour course in which he never left a parking lot, he and other officers in Columbus' motorcycle unit began street training.

Initial training included slow-turn maneuvering through cones, hard breaking, maneuverability at higher speeds and properly picking up a bike from the ground.

Despite his familiarity with motorcycles, the training was different because "you're leaning it and turning it as hard as you can, just to the point to (but not) dropping it, something you usually don't do," Long said.

Long rode his motorcycle in the city's Fourth of July parade and then began patrolling the same day. Time on the motorcycle will be weather-dependent, Fisher said.

Long hasn't gone through winter yet as a motorcycle officer, but if it is clear and dry, "I plan to be out there," he said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo