In the USA, bike patrol has been in practice since the late 1980’s. The development of advanced police bike officer training, police bike patrol tactics, and police bike equipment has become a leading country worldwide. As such, bicycle patrols, taken as a ‘specialized unit’ in police departments of American states, are a very good and effective police option. In order to run such patrols, it requires different training, facilities, duties, and sanctioned budget. Two relevant organizations in America provide quality instruction and information on bicycle patrols. They are the Mountain Bike Association of the International Police (IPMBA) and the Law Enforcement Bike Association (LEBA). The IPMBA model is more general and more well-known (Shah, 2003).
According to IPMBA tools, mountain bicycles are used in police forces to control illegal activity. Because of the incentives, planning a bicycle patrol unit in the state police forces of the United States of America has become a trend. Bikes, which help fill the gap between cars and foot patrol, are noiseless, inexpensive and reliable. Communities tend to chat in the neighbourhood to a bike patrol officer rather than a beat officer. This leads to police attempts to solve issues. In finding criminals, bicycle officers can better use their eye, ear, and smell senses. Criminals should not question their existence around them, even though they are in uniform.
In crowded urban areas, where traffic is very slow, and the crowd comes in between the motorised road, another advantage of mountain bike is its value. Parks, car parks, institutions, towns, business centres, tourist complexes, and VIP functions can be reached by bike. It is possible to access the streets, sidewalks, alleys, trails, and other areas by bike, where motor vehicles are unable to enter due to lack of space. In urban and remote areas, they are useful for saving people from accidents (IPMBA resources).
It is very important to learn how to handle a weapon during a cycling patrol. It is also possible to use the bike as a safety weapon. The alternative 'use of force' illustrates that biking is not only a means of transport. Still, in addition to scenario drills, tactics such as riding stairs, cone courses, slow speed skills and suspicious experiences add to the already learned cycling skills. Therefore, it is very important to pass the training course before performing police bike patrols (Shah, 2003).
The meaning of IPMBA courses such as Security Cyclist qualification courses lies here. IPMBA 's Complete Guide to Police Cycling covers specific related topics such as administrative and legal issues, technical and biking abilities, processes of maintenance and patrol. As a first-class resource for existing units, the guide will help launch a bike unit.
In the United States of America, Lancaster Police Department (LPD) has around 170 personnel and about 40 riders (Shah, 2003). Bicycle patrol has the added benefit of clear vision, reach, and better timely action. It is the right transport to solving problems, as it offers good chances to talk daily with the public (Perez & Angiolillo, 1994).
The process of creating and developing a bike unit requires certain step-by-step follow-ups, as has happened in American different states' police departments. Let's take the Lancaster Police department (LPD) in raising the bicycle patrol unit.
1. Team Selection: The Lancaster Police Department has set standard criteria to select its bicycle patrol officers. A minimum of two years of experience of being an officer is required besides being fit and good in communication skills. A bicycle patrol officer expected to think 'outside the box' to organize crime reduction programs (Shah, 2003).
2. Training Process: States have different syllabus but common to all is the IPMBA PCC training program of 5 days/40 hours. Training is like a defensive tactic to reduce the chances of serious injuries. In LPD, the course also includes a day of off-road riding to get expertise in handling and riding skills. It increases the confidence of riders, generally practiced on the last day of training (Shah, 2003).
The Lancaster police force also provides the opportunity to its riders of the IPMBA Advanced Techniques Course. It includes a review of what has been earlier learned besides weapon training in actual settings, like ‘dismounting from the bike and getting to cover,' and shooting from the bike at night (Shah, 2003).
3. Health and Safety: The LPD provides comfortable clothes suitable in hot temperatures so that officers perform their duties efficiently. Pants of bikers are tapered in at ankles not to come in between gear cogs while performing duties. Riders’ fitness and health are important issues with LPD (Shah, 2003).
4. Budgets, Funding, and Purchasing: In most states, bike units have separate budgets to purchase bicycles and equipment. Donations also help. In LPD, City taxes are particularly spent on community policing and bicycle units. The unit runs fundraising programs and gets monetary help from the Lancaster Bike Club (Shah, 2003).
5. Uniforms and Accessories: It is the responsibility of the police department to provide cool, comfortable uniform going well with bikers’ professional look as well as suitable for climate and season (Shah, 2003).
6. Bike and other Equipment: Like all other state police departments, LPD purchases IPMBA specified bikes. Mostly bikes are customized according to riders' measurements to not reset bikes according to their size. It is generally discouraged to share bikes in all police departments, as it is not as costly as a motor vehicle. Added safety devices in bikes are useful but not a choice against correct cycling techniques (Shah, 2003).
7. Maintenance: LPD is considering the option of providing training to its bikers to do repair services, but preference is still given to taking outside services of trained mechanics, so that police officers in greater numbers are available for patrol (Shah, 2003).
8. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): All states’ police departments have different SOPs. In LPD, bike officers are called ComPol Officers. They perform 12 hours duty from 0700 to 1700 hours in the day and 1500-0100 in the night for the whole year. The city center is grouped into 12 areas – one officer per area and two officers in the municipal area on bikes. Generally, 5 to 10 officers in a shift on bikes are supported by motor vehicles and horses. Bike units answer to first response calls like any other unit, but at the same time, they perform ComPol activities within their areas (Shah, 2003).
9. Effect on Reducing/Detecting Crime and Job/Public Satisfaction: LPD – Bike patrols have positively impacted the locals by controlling traffic in high crime rates and anti-police neighborhoods. Another feather in the cap and that, before other patrol cars, is the performance of the backup units in reaching the scene of action well in time. LPD statistics show that the bike unit succeeded in cutting down by 56 percent on major crimes in the downtown area in the first year of the introduction of bike patrol in 1994. The crime rate went down steadily in the coming years before it hit the minimum level. Moreover, it brought a happy shift in the viewpoint of citizens on enhanced protection, made possible by police intervention, aggressive patrols, and legal action against so-called minor crimes (Shah, 2003).
10. Bicycle Specific Legislation: Patrol bikes are not bound by traffic rules and enjoy the benefits applicable as per the state of Pennsylvania Traffic Codes.
It is very significant to note that bike patrols are playing a positive role in policing in America. In comparison to investments made, results are impressive due to high returns in crime control. In different states, police departments like LPD have spent sufficient money and human resource. They have come to know and have realized the particular nature of the bike unit in police patrol. They are training to efficiently handle bikes while on patrol is very important. Bike patrol without knowing special skills could be risky for crime prevention programs (Shah, 2003).
On the whole, bike patrols of America, whichever state you choose, whether it is the Lancaster Police Department or others like the University of Pennsylvania Police Department, New York Police Department, or Telford Police Department, are given due importance by the top management, as a dependable policing alternative. The different police departments have set up 'specialized units,' where bike police officers are provided with training, equipment, duties, and monetary resources.
The US model has inspired other world governments to use bike patrol policing in crime prevention. Many years of experience on the line has put the American bike patrol units in leading positions. A very important role has also been played by organizations like IPMBA in offering quality training and creating related infrastructure. Other countries' police bike officers can learn a lot from American bike officers' shared opinions, experiences, and professional standards
Perez & Angiolillo. (1994). The Fort Lauderdale Police Department. Retrieved Wednesday, April 25, 2007 from http://ci.ftlaud.fl.us/police/bicycle.html.
Shah, Michael. (2003). Police bicycle patrol techniques. The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship Report. Retrieved Wednesday, April 25, 2007.
The Complete Guide to Police Cycling, IPMBA RESOURCES. Retrieved Wednesday, April 25, 2007 from http://www.ipmba.org/resources-ipmba.htm.