Five Milwaukee police bicycle patrol officers have been injured in the past month -- the latest on Saturday -- but that won't make police officials take bike officers off the streets.
"It's a hazardous duty in that you don't have a squad car around you," said Capt. Don Gaglione, who's in charge of the Neighborhood Task Force and rides a bicycle himself. "I don't think any of this is a risk that's above and beyond what we do on a daily basis. It's part of the job. It's an inherent danger to be a police officer. It's an inherent danger to be a bicycle officer. But the five in a month is obviously more than we'd like to see any time."
In the latest incident Saturday, a 26-year-old bike officer was struck in a crosswalk at Fond du Lac Ave. and W. Capitol Drive by an 84-year-old driver. The officer is recovering at home from minor injuries. The driver was cited for failure to yield the right of way.
Another officer was struck by a 47-year-old suspected drunken driver from Mequon as the officer conducted a traffic stop shortly before 9 p.m. Sept. 15 in the 1500 block of W. Vliet St., according to police.
Three officers were struck in a hit-and-run incident in the 1100 block of W. Lincoln Ave. shortly before 12:45 a.m. Sept. 9.
Last year, only two bike officers were injured, Gaglione said.
The recent streak of accidents was not the fault of the officers, he said, but of drivers who were either drunk or not paying attention.
"None of these officers did anything wrong," he said. "It's just a lot of incidents in a short period of time. Drunk drivers, inattentive drivers. . . . People need to be aware of their surroundings, people who are driving. Be aware of the bicycles that are out there and take precautions for them."
Gaglione denied that insufficient lights on the bikes contributed to any of the accidents.
"None of these incidences have anything to do with inappropriate lighting or not correct lighting," he said. "All of our bicycles, based on the state statute, have the lighting that is required for both the front and the rear of the bicycle. Every one of our bikes has had that."
Nevertheless, he said, officers are testing a couple of sets of lights purchased with some of the $13,000 donated by philanthropists in response to the Sept. 15 incident. The money was donated to provide special lights and replace the officer's bike, which was destroyed in that crash.
Gaglione said bicycle officers have several advantages over other officers: They can sneak up on people faster than officers on foot, are not as easily observed as officers in a squad car and engage more quickly with people they encounter.
Milwaukee police have about 90 bike officers.
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