For its latest order of motorcycles, the Los Angeles Police Department eschewed longtime supplier Harley-Davidson and instead chose lighter, more lithe BMW bikes, ordering more than 60 of the German marque's R1200 RT-Ps.

It's another sign of the times: Local and state governments were for years pushed into buying American, often by strings-attached federal grants, but lately you'll notice a lot of foreign machinery in the city of Los Angeles' fleets, including Honda Civic hybrids at the Department of Transportation and Toyota pickups and SUVs at the LAPD.

The department's last allotment of bikes for its motorcycle-based traffic units apparently came in 2003 when Harley was favored over BMW, partly because of the American maker's $1,500-per-bike cost savings and because the German company wouldn't honor the department's desire to perform warranty work at its own, in-house garages.

But the BMW's welterweight performance, when compared to the hogs' heavyweight stance, seemed to make the difference this time. “It's a heavy bike, with not enough power,” one motor officer said of his Harley-Davidson. “It's nice for the ride home. But it's not much good for the work we do.”

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