Bike Patrol Offers Different Perspective for Officers
Marshfield, WI (OnFocus) Each summer the Marshfield Police Department puts a different spin on its patrols with the use of bikes.
Switching out the squad car for a bike allows an officer to better patrol hard-to-reach areas and special events, plus gives opportunities for more friendly interactions with the community.
“It provides us an opportunity for a different perspective on patrol in general,” said Lt. Dennis Keffer. “We’re able to ride through parks or through neighborhoods in a way that’s different than a patrol vehicle.”
There are four bikes at the department available for officers interested in using them on their shift, as long as staffing allows. While a certification isn’t required for bike patrol, many of the officers have benefited from the 40-hour cyclist training through the International Police Mountain Bike Association (IPMBA).
Patrolling on a bike gives officers the chance to see and hear activities they wouldn’t be able to in a squad car, plus the advantage of a subtler approach to a crime in progress.
“Officers are often times more likely to encounter concerns in some of the nooks and crannies of the city because they’re able to get into them a little bit more on bikes,” said Lt. Keffer. “The downtown alleys are better to patrol at night on bike patrol than in a squad. You can hear things a little bit better and sometimes see things a little better because you’re riding at a slower pace.”
A bike can be the better choice for a call, such as a concern in a park, since the bike can navigate those areas where a vehicle can’t. When residential burglaries plagued a part of the city years ago, officers targeted the area on bikes since they were quieter.
The department has used bikes to watch for traffic violations in busy areas of the city where it’s more difficult for a squad car to stop and monitor. A bike patrol conducts a traffic stop by pulling up next to a vehicle with a violation, such as for cell phone use, and asking the driver to pull over. If an arrest needs to be made, the officer will call for assistance from a squad.
Lt. Keffer said he enjoys the different perspective to patrolling on a bike and the challenge of getting to a call before the squad car. Though staffing has limited its use in recent years, residents had more opportunity to see the bike patrol in action this summer.