Goodwill ambassadors: Fishers resident rides with IMPD Motorcycle Drill Team


It’s traditional for the captain of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s Traffic Division to also be a member of the IMPD Motorcycle Drill Team, and Capt. Fred Ilnicki, a Fishers resident, is happy to continue that tradition.

“I love riding and I love the — basically what the drill team stands for,” Ilnicki said during a conversation at the division’s headquarters on 23rd Street in Indianapolis’ Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood. “I mean, it’s all about public relations and being ambassadors for the city and for the department. And we’ve gotten to do a lot of neat things.”

The drill team is made up of IMPD officers who volunteer their free time to practice motorcycle drills and then perform in parades and other exhibitions in Indiana and nationwide.

CIF COM IMPDDrillTeam 052824 2
Captain Fred Ilnicki of Fishers, left, and Sgt. Chad Dixon are members of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Motorcycle Drill Team. (Photo by Leila Kheiry)

“Some of them we do on an annual basis, like Benton Harbor, Mich., is coming up,” Ilnicki said. “It’s the Blossom Time festival and the team has done that every year since — I think it was like ’68 or something — 1968. And then there’s some other ones that we do on a pretty regular basis, like Amarillo, Texas, and the Edison Festival of Lights down in Fort Myers Beach, Fla.”

The team also travels to Hawaii every few years and participated in the 2017 inauguration parade for then-President Donald Trump.

And, of course, the IMPD Motorcycle Drill Team participates in Indianapolis-area parades for St. Patrick’s Day, the Circle City Classic, Veteran’s Day and — most recently — the Indy 500.

A Lawrence Police Department officer on the team, Capt. Tracey Cantrell, also has performed solo during the annual City of Lawrence Fourth of July parade.

Sgt. Chad Dixon is commander of the drill team and said IMPD’s team is one of only a few motorcycle drill teams in the nation. He said every officer on the team first goes through basic police motorcycle training, which is much more rigorous than anything an average civilian motorcycle operator learns.

“It’s more than just stopping and going and riding in traffic,” he said. “What if we need to weave in and out of cars, or around obstacles? You need to know how to operate that 900-pound motorcycle.”

Drill team members take those skills even further. Dixon said any officer interested in joining is invited to first watch a few practices.

“They come in, they watch and they learn, they can ask questions,” he said. “And then (if) they tell me that, ‘Yeah, I think this is something I want to do,’ I have a book of our moves and maneuvers and things like that that I give to them. And I say, ‘Here, learn the names.’”

Each maneuver has its own name and Dixon said that when they’re in a parade, he rides in the back and communicates to the team which maneuver to do next. There isn’t a set series of moves that they do, he said — it all depends on what’s happening at the time and the crowd’s responses.

“Each spot (on the team) has its own area of responsibility they need to do while moving, because a lot of times, it’s a moving machine,” he said. “We’re coming in, we’re turning through each other, coming around and moving. So, you’ve got to trust in your partner that you’re coming to that, ‘I’m not going to hit you. You just do what you got to do.’”

Ilnicki said that although the motorcycles belong to IMPD, the time and expenses related to the drill team’s performances are funded through a nonprofit.

“For the city, it’s kind of a win-win, because we get to be ambassadors to the city. The only thing — the agreement we have with the agency is they let us use the bikes, but outside of that our guys are on vacation time (for performances),” he said. “We take our own time for that unless it’s paid for by private funding.”

Ilnicki said he is humbled to be part of the IMPD Motorcycle Drill Team and, even though he’s the captain, he follows Dixon’s lead when it comes to the team.

“I’m part of what’s called the gold team — we’re the guys in the back that do a lot of waving,” he said. “I can ride a bike safely and I can maneuver what I need to maneuver, but most of my guys are leaps and bounds above my capabilities. And I’m OK with that.”

For more, visit

CIF COM IMPDDrillTeam 052824 3
A historic photo shows the IMPD Motorcycle Drill Team in the 1970s. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. Chad Dixon)

IMPD Motorcycle Drill Team history

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s Motorcycle Drill Team started in 1954, before there was an IMPD.

Sgt. Chad Dixon, the drill team’s commander, said it all began because the American Legion’s national convention was coming to Indianapolis.

“They needed something to represent the city to lead off that parade through downtown,” he said. “Somebody came up with the idea of like, how about we take motorcycles and we’ll put Indiana on it?”

A group of Indianapolis officers mounted letters on their bikes to spell out “INDIANA” and rode through the parade. The idea expanded from there and 70 years later, the drill team is still going strong.