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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Memphis Police Department sees many benefits of the bike patrol program for its officers and the community

Memphis Police Department sees many benefits of the bike patrol program for its officers and the community
By:  Michael Lander

MPD officers can frequently be seen patrolling downtown areas
on bicycle in Memphis and, in this case, are being accompanied
by public safety officers.

Riding a bicycle can be a very healthy activity, and it can be great recreational fun for those who do it, but for some in the Memphis Police Department it is actually a part of their job.

Even though bike patrols with law enforcement officers date as far back as 100 years ago, according to Memphis Police Department (MPD) Public Information Officer, Sgt. Karen Rudolph, the program did not actually begin in our city until the mid-1990’s.

Today, there are currently 350 to 400 certified bicycle officers who are qualified to patrol Memphis City streets.

In the 20 or more years since its implementation, the program has appeared to have been well-received by the general public and those MPD officers who have participated in the program.  Officer Antwan Suttle is one of them.  He is also a Memphis City Police Cyclist Instructor.

“I enjoy the opportunity to do bike patrol,” Suttle said.  “Cycling is a very good method of cardiovascular activity that helps me to maintain my fitness goals…. and I get the opportunity to work out while being paid to do so,” he added.

MPD officers on bikes are a common sight at special events in
the city like the Cooper-Young Festival, which is usually held in
September of each year.

Other than the health benefits to him and his fellow police officers, Suttle views the bike patrol program as giving him an opportunity to engage people in the community in a positive and more direct way.

“Bike patrols put you up close and personal with the community.  Getting out of the patrol car and engaging citizens on a bike is an excellent public relations tool and it gives people in the community an added sense of security just knowing that we are there,” Settle said.

That is a sentiment that is echoed by MPD officer Kevin Barrett.

“Bike patrol is a great tool in community oriented policing.  There is no barrier between police and citizens.  It allows for more personal interactions with the community that you cannot get in a patrol car,” Barrett said.

This lack of a barrier seems to be a big plus for the officers and the people in the community, as well, and Rudolph said that officers frequently receive favorable feedback from residents who see the bike patrols in their communities.  They express their appreciation to them for being there.

Even though some people might not notice them, there are
often bike patrol officers on Memphis City streets.  Several
bike patrol officers were among those in attendance at the
bike gate grand opening ceremony at Overton Park on
April 19, 2014.

For most precincts in the city, Rudolph said that the bike patrol is an additional duty for them, but that some officers who work in areas such as downtown do patrol on a very consistent basis.  They also work all special events in the city and in many midtown areas, among others, she said.

One of the added benefits that Settle sees with the bike patrol program is that it isn’t quite as noticeable and attention-getting as a police squad car or on a motorcycle can often be.

“The element of stealth and surprise that a bike officer is able to achieve is a great added feature,” Settle said.  “I can recall several situations where my partners and I have arrested individuals for attempting to break into vehicles and thefts from residences.  The suspects had no clue that we were there until it was too late for them to get away,” he said.

In order for a police officer to be on bike patrol, Rudolph indicated that there are certain requirements that they must first meet beforehand.

Bike patrol officers regularly patrol downtown and they can be
seen throughout the year and are trained and able to ride at
night.

“An officer must be off probation and they must complete a rigorous mandatory 40-hour police cyclist course with endurance rides up to 36 miles,” Rudolph said.  “These officers are tested on bike handling skills, drills, ascending and descending stairs, firearms training, nutrition, cycling at night, just to name a few,” she said.

The bikes that are currently in service and used by the MPD bike patrols are Raleigh, Trek, and Specialized.  The Specialized Rockhopper 29-inch wheel mountain bikes are the newest ones in their fleet and the police department is looking for grant opportunities to supplement and replace their older and more outdated bicycles.  All of the bikes that the department’s bike patrol uses are maintained by MPD officers.

Because of the ongoing and continuing need for police officers and for people in the community to work, cooperate, and to support one another, the police departments bicycle program may be one of the better ways to help make that happen.

This program offers a unique way for Memphis’ finest to be able to meet and to interact in a more direct and approachable way with those in the Memphis community while continuing to serve and protect it.

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