Campus & Community

Motorcycle rodeo brings police and civilian riders together in competition and camaraderie

Engines roared and turns got tighter as law enforcement and civilian motorcycle riders maneuvered their 1000cc bikes on challenging courses at the 2024 Panther Prowl Motorcycle Rodeo hosted by Palm Beach State College, March 14-16.

South Florida’s only combined law enforcement and civilian motorcycle competition, the rodeo took place at the 4.5-acre skid pad of Palm Beach State’s Public Safety Training Center on the Lake Worth campus. Fifty riders from as far away as Canada and Michigan participated in two days of challenges, practice runs and training, followed by a day of timed competitions and awards.

Split about 50-50 between law enforcement and civilian riders, the rodeo participants were united in their passion for training and safety and their appreciation for one another.

Law enforcement and civilian riders wait to do practice runs at the 2024 Panther Prowl Motorcycle Rodeo at Palm Beach State College. CLICK image to see more rodeo photos.

Amanda Swymn, a civilian rider from Louisiana who is known as Amanda Jo out in the “cones,” learned about this sport in 2019 and started training in 2020. She trains with her family, posts training videos on YouTube and TikTok (AmandaJo is her handle), and has formed a club called Cajun Thunder Motorsports, which so far has 12 members.

“I feel lucky to be out here with all these motor officers,” Swymn said. “I know that’s what they do for their job. They’re risking their lives every day out there. And I just feel honored, as a civilian, to be out here and train and ride alongside them. I really have such a respect for our police officers.”

Jay Cusimano, an IT consultant from Volusia County, came to the rodeo with his son, Joe, a deputy with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office. Jay, a civilian, has been riding all his adult life but only started competing three years ago. He and his son came to the inaugural Panther Prowl Motorcycle Rodeo last year.

Son and father Joe and Jay Cusimano represented police and civilian riders in one family.

“One thing that makes this event special is the mix of law enforcement and civilian riders. You don’t see that at every event around the country, and I think it’s a good thing for both communities. It brings camaraderie and the chance to train together and build relationships together. So it’s a win-win.”

Law enforcement shares this sentiment. Sgt. Michael Daly of the Boca Raton Police Department Motorcycle Unit won first place at last year’s Panther Prowl Motorcycle Rodeo but will observe this year while two of his officers compete.

“Some very great riders are civilians, and so as law enforcement, we’re able to come out here and meet them and ride with them and learn from them,” Daly said. They’re doing things differently than we do. It’s just a great experience to be able to compete with civilians as well. And they’ve got some real good ones out here this year.”

Deputy Emilio Ruiz is one of the 17 motor officers from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office who participated in the rodeo.

Sgt. Allen Adkins of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office Motor Unit agrees. He brought 17 motor officers, out of a team of 52, to the event.

“This rodeo brings out a lot of riders and there are some really good civilian riders here,” Adkins said. “Everything we do in these rodeo exercises is basically what we do every day on the motorcycle. All the turns and evasive maneuvers, all the course hazards, just make us better riders and safer riders. It makes the civilian riders safer also, and I’m glad to see them out here.”

Riding a 1000cc motorcycle is difficult and very taxing, and the 2024 Panther Prowl Motorcycle Rodeo provided a valuable opportunity to improve as well as compete.

“You’re out here training and honing your skills,” added Daly. “We spend our time out in the middle of the pad in the sun and the heat—some are 12 hours out there—riding these courses just for the chance that they can put everything together in competition—mentally, physically and technically—and have a good five-minute run and maybe take home some hardware. That’s the reward.”

Civilian rider Amanda Jo Swymn won second place (timed run, non-fairing).

From the civilian viewpoint, Swymn added, “We want to be safer riders out on the street, and this training absolutely does that for you. It makes you one with your machine. But one of the biggest things I’ve learned from training with all of these people, who are so hardcore but so supportive, is that don’t ever give up on your dreams. Keep going. Keep pushing yourself, and you can achieve anything you put your mind to.”

Held for the first time last year, the three-day event also featured a performance by the Fort Lauderdale Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Drill Team and a blessing of the bikes. All proceeds benefited Palm Beach State College students preparing for law enforcement careers. The event was coordinated by Lydia Runkle, a quality control specialist for PBSC’s Criminal Justice Institute, and Tom Melnichok, an instructor and the high-liability coordinator of curriculum concerning police vehicle operation, firearms, first aid and defensive tactics for PBSC’s Basic Recruit Law Enforcement Academy.

“There are not a lot of events like this, where you have law enforcement and civilians competing against each other for a prize, and we get a lot of compliments on it,” said Melnichok, who retired as a major after 25 years with the Palm Beach Police Department before becoming an instructor. “We went from 12 registered riders last year to 58 registered this year and 50 participating, so it’s definitely growing. This event really showcases the College and our interaction with the community. It brings us all together.”

The Winners (from left): Franco Dal Bon, Osceola County Sheriff’s Office; Jay Cusimano, civilian; Christopher Moniz, Broward County Sheriff’s Office; Tom Melnichok, instructor, PBSC Criminal Justice Institute; Michael Swymn, civilian; Amanda Swymn, civilian; Joshua McCoy, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office; and Tim McCarthy, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

The 2024 Panther Prowl Motorcycle Rodeo is part of the upcoming second annual Palm Beach State College Invitational, scheduled for April 29 – May 4. The invitational is a multiday, multidiscipline competitive event for members of public safety agencies to demonstrate their abilities, compete against their peers, and learn in a cooperative environment.

“We’re very excited to host such a wonderful yearly event that brings civilian and law enforcement riders together to have a nice, friendly competition and see who comes out as the best rider,” said Vincent Morton, director of PBSC’s Criminal Justice Institute. “The rodeo and the entire PBSC Invitational also give our public safety students dynamic opportunities to interact with professionals and see the standards to which they hold themselves.”

Palm Beach State College is the leading educator of public safety professionals in Palm Beach County, offering degree and certificate programs in criminal justice, emergency medical services (including EMT and paramedic) and fire science, as well as various advanced, cross-over and career programs, such as Public Safety Telecommunications, which trains 911 dispatchers.

And the winners are:

TIMED RUN WINNERS
FAIRING:
1ST: Jay Cusimano  (civilian)
2ND: Tim McCarthy (Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office)
3RD: Subi Chockalingam (civilian)

NON-FAIRING:
1ST: Michael Swymn (civilian)
2ND: Jerry Swymn (civilian)
3RD: Amanda Swymn (civilian)

OTHER:
Franco Dal Bon  (Osceola County Sheriff’s Office)

SLOW BOX WINNER
Michael Swymn

PRECISION RUN WINNERS
NON-FAIRING: Michael Swymn
FAIRING: Jay Cusimano
OTHER: Franco Del Bon

FUN RUN WINNERS
NON-FAIRING: Michael Swymn
FAIRING: Jay Cusimano
OTHER:  Franco Dal Bon

MR. RODEO
Michael Swymn

 

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