Hit the Pavement

Where the past meets the future in police bike patrols

Cycling gloves: Gloves should be mandatory equipment for all bicycle officers. Becker says the best ones are padded and help decrease the impact to hands should a fall take place, as well as prevent road rash trauma to palms. These gloves are designed to reduce sweat, which also keeps hands from becoming slippery. In addition, Becker says, gloves are constructed to reduce stress on the nerve that runs down a rider's wrist and absorb the shock which normally runs up the arm.

Gloves come in different styles, but officers should choose those that allow them to retain as much manual dexterity as possible, while still protecting the hands. Becker says it's also imperative officers train in full biking gear - helmets, gloves, goggles, body armor - everything. Practice firearms and defensive tactics while geared up, too.

Uniforms: Tons of cyclist uniforms are out there. Selecting the one which works best for an agency depends on budget, terrain, climate and how frequently uniforms will be worn. Becker says for best performance, pick uniforms that are both wickable and breathable.

"They need to allow sweat to evaporate so it doesn't pool up and the officer gets cold," Becker says. "Layering is a big thing." It may be more efficient to opt for uniforms that can adapt to both hot and cold climates if the agency is in an area with extreme seasonal temperatures.

The next big things: Becker says some departments already opt for high visibility gear, such as the neon yellow that helps officers stand out in traffic. But, of course, that limits the ability to sneak into areas without being detected.

Another trend Becker notes is the importation of a certain style of body armor from the United Kingdom. The body armor goes outside a uniform shirt and also serves as a utility vest. "It has pockets and spreads the weight [of the objects carried] around and gets it off the shoulders and hips," Becker says.

Charlotte's Branham says bikes one day will be outfitted with video support systems for evidence, much as patrol units already have, although bicycle officers probably won't be engaging in traffic stops. He's also looking forward to the launch of a prototype of a Palm Pilot-like device that will allow officers to check for warrants, run registrations and, hopefully, someday even integrate into a department's computerized report system.

He also predicts lots of lightweight LED applications for bicycle officers around the bend. He says the brighter lights and small, compact size of LED power fits the needs of bicyclists well.

Community policing efforts are maximized by the modern-day bike patrols. In a world that moves around on wheels, new designs and user-friendly gear make today's bicycle officers prepared to hit the pavement running.

(Both LEBA and IPMBA offer training courses and guidance on everything from starting a bicycle unit to equipment selection, physical readiness and patrol techniques. For more information, see either www.leba.org or www.ipmba.org.)

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