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Bicycle Cops
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 omnipresence.     
"Today...you'll see police officers
professionally and  appropriately
attired and operating some pretty
sophisticated bicycles."
~ Barry M. Baker

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