Meet the NYPD motorcyclists protecting world leaders during UN General Assembly

Driving force of NYPD motorcades
Driving force of NYPD motorcades 02:48

Parts of New York City are gridlocked this week because of the annual United Nations General Assembly. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) says more than 120 heads of state are in the city for this year's session, resulting in over 170 motorcades.

As a motorcade of nearly two dozen motorcycles rode past, it looked easy. But it was actually the culmination of a year's worth of planning and practice, reports CBS News' Kris Van Cleave.  

President Trump is just one of 11 world leaders attending the U.N. General Assembly who get a continuous "high risk" NYPD escort from an elite group of NYPD motorcycle officers as long as they're in New York.

"We call them the A team,'" said Thomas Chan, the chief of transportation for the NYPD and a former motorcycle officer. "They are the best riders in highway district. They're selected because of their skill."

Long before they hop on a Harley and lead a motorcade, they have to make it through a grueling 20-day training course. Only about half pass the course.

CBS News

"CBS This Morning" got special access to their training facility and watched officers practice motorcades. A few ride ahead looking for potential threats and, if needed, block roads until the motorcade passes. Then, they race to get back to the front. Meanwhile, others stay in a wedge formation ahead of a president or dignitary.
"We have to be ready for everything," Sgt. Joseph Murphy said.
Murphy is riding in the president's motorcade this week. During his 35-year career, he has worked on at least 75 presidential escorts.
"Like I tell the new students when they come into the motorcycle school, when they came on this job, they get a ticket to every major event in the city and when they're in the highway patrol, they get a front row seat," Murphy said.

The job is not without its risks. Several officers nationwide have been killed or injured in motorcade accidents in recent years. These NYPD officers have also handled visits from vice presidents, dozens of heads of state, and even the Pope. 

When they're not on escort duty, they're part of the NYPD Highway Patrol.