Shawn D. Maples
Shawn D. Maples - Bike Patrol Traffic OfficerShawn D. Maples - Bike Patrol Traffic Officer
By Shawn D. Maples, Bike Patrol Traffic Officer
One of the fastest growing trends in law enforcement is outfitting police officers with mountain bikes. Quiet, cost-efficient and amazingly effective, mountain bikes are able to bridge the gap between patrol cars and foot beats.
Experience has shown that citizens are more likely to approach a bike patrol officer than even a neighborhood beat officer in a marked vehicle, optimizing community oriented policing efforts. Bike officers are better able to use all of their senses including, sight, smell and hearing to detect and address crime. They are often able to approach suspects virtually unnoticed, even in full uniform.
The Bike Unit provides a unique tool. Bike officers deployed in plain clothes operations working in conjunction with uniformed officers have proven to be invaluable in the detection of in-progress criminal activity resulting in felony arrests.
In an age when agencies are looking to reduce their carbon footprint and provide a more cost-effective method of service, it is long overdue that agencies begin looking at the mountain bike as a very effective tool that should also be added to the modern traffic division. We have all grown accustom to the decked out motor officer on his shiny Harley Davidson motorcycle and the black and white patrol car equipped with all of the state of the art speed enforcement equipment, but what is missing from the modern traffic unit is the bicycle officer.
Over the last two years, the El Cerrito Police Department has been conducting directed traffic enforcement operations based on citizen complaints, vehicle collisions and traffic congestion. Bike Patrol Officers have been able to address numerous traffic-related concerns through citizen contacts, educational opportunities and enforcement efforts.
Bike officers are capable of conducting the same enforcement as the motor vehicle officers at a greatly reduced cost. This enforcement includes all of the standard violations from speeding, red light/ stop sign violations, turning violations and all of the commonly observed equipment violations. Bike officers also have been utilized to effectively enforce car pool lane violations and conduct commercial enforcement.
The bike officer is in a much better position to observe violations due to the maneuverability of the bike in congested traffic areas coupled with the fact that the motoring public is conditioned to be on the lookout for patrol cars and motorcycles in traditional locations.
Needless to say, bike officers are substantially more effective at enforcing pedestrian-related violations and violations committed by other cyclists.
With the recent increase of cyclists utilizing bikes to commute to work there has been an unfortunate increase in the number of bicycle vs. automobile collisions resulting in injuries. Bike officers are in a much better position to interact with and educate the public as to the need for safe cycling habits in an effort to reduce cycling related injuries.
Agencies with existing bike patrol units should give serious consideration to selecting a bike officer for the unit and see for themselves exactly how effective this tool can be to address traffic related concerns. Agencies that currently operate without a bicycle patrol unit should begin the process of implementing a program and learn just how beneficial bike officers can be when utilized to address all forms of criminal activity and traffic concerns.
Agencies considering the implementation of a bicycle patrol unit need to understand that officers must attend a P.O.S.T certified training course or a course approved by the International Police Mountain Bike Association before the officers can hit the streets.
Sergeant Maples has been an active employee of the El Cerrito Police Department for 23 years and held various positions within the department, including assignments in patrol, detectives and administration. As a sergeant, he has experience as a patrol watch commander, detective sergeant, FTO sergeant, driving instructor, bicycle patrol unit coordinator and bicycle patrol instructor.