In the mid 1970's, the Baltimore Police Department
purchased nine 10sp bicycles for each of its nine
police districts. One police officer from each district
was chosen for a pilot program to assess the
effectiveness of the bicycles in the patrol function.
Training consisted of each officer's assurance that
he could ride a two wheeled bicycle. Accessories
consisted of...well...nothing. There were no
helmets or specially designed uniforms. The pilot
program provided the obvious conclusions. The
bicycle officer was mobile. He could move a lot
faster, and with less physical effort, than an officer
on foot. He could traverse over walkways and
through narrow alleys where an automobile couldn't
go. However, there was one major problem. Those
10sp bicycles of that time simply weren't up to the
task of surviving those curbs and steps so
frequently encountered in an urban environment. It
would be another twenty years, before the bicycle
cop would come of age in a meaningful way.
Today...you'll see police officers professionally and
appropriately attired and operating some pretty
sophisticated bicycles. The training has also
become sophisticated. To the right...I've linked you
to the International Police Mountain Bike
Association. It's quite a good web site, and if you
like the idea of spending a portion of your police
career patrolling atop a bicycle, this is a web site
you must visit.
If you begin your police career patrolling a high
crime urban area, you'll frequently hear residents of
that area calling for the return to police foot patrol.
There's still a lot of people around who remember
police officers walking beats. There's no question
that police officers walking beats is the most
effective form of patrol; however, it's far from the
most efficient due to simple geography. A single
motorized officer can cover a far larger area of
patrol than a foot officer.
One would think that bicycle cops would be the
perfect median between foot and motorized police
officers. The bicycle cops have the mobility while
possessing the same up close and personal aspect
of the foot patrolmen of yesteryear. While nearly
every police department of any size will have a
bicycle unit(s), few police commanders view bicycles
as a significant tactical resource let alone a strategic
one. Even though cops on bicycles are obviously
part of a police department's patrol resource, these
bicycle units are rarely fully integrated into the
patrol functions. You'll soon learn that the biggest
difference between you, the patrol officer, and
everybody else is that you're the only one who
routinely answers calls for service. When bicycle
officers are deployed tactically, that deployment is
usually temporary, and its primary purpose is
"Today... you'll see police officers
professionally and appropriately attired and
operating some pretty sophisticated bicycles."
~ Barry M. Baker
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