Bike patrol adds flexibility, community element to downtown Loveland

Patrol officers with the Loveland Police Department can now be seen pedaling the streets as part of the renewed bike patrol

By Julia Rentsch, Reporter-Herald Staff Writer, 09/29/2017

LOVELAND CO -- It has become familiar to see officers patrolling downtown Loveland on foot, but now the police are using a new form of locomotion: bicycles.

The Loveland Police Department bike patrol hit the street Sept. 9 with the aim of making officers more mobile as they patrol areas of downtown Loveland that are not easily traversed by car or on foot, such as alleyways and bike paths.

Officers patrolling on bicycles coordinate with officers on foot patrol to maximize their effectiveness.

Capt. Tim Brown, who heads up the downtown enforcement program, said that 14 sworn officers — including Chief Bob Ticer — and two civilian volunteers completed an intensive 40-hour training program in August to be eligible for bike patrol duty.

During the training, which was conducted by the Law Enforcement Bicycle Association, participants learned maneuvers and bike repair and safety, biking nearly 100 miles in the process.

Sgt. Brandon Johnson said he recognized the value of revitalizing the program after it was brought to his attention by one of LPD's patrol officers, Burke Baldwin.

Johnson pitched the idea to his commanding officers and said he was "fully supported."

"Right about the same time, we were plagued with some problems in the downtown area, and we were trying to find ways to mobilize officers and make them more visible," Johnson said.

Bike patrol officers circulate the streets and alleyways of downtown, as well as the neighboring bike paths, in order to combat common criminal offenses including open drinking, loitering, vandalism, theft, threatening behavior and drug use.

Among the cycling officers is Jay Smith, who has spent the past couple of weeks patrolling downtown Loveland on his bike, communing with business owners, getting to know the transient population, and, of course, working to put a stop to crime.

Smith described an incident two weeks ago in which he and other bike patrol officers chased a suspect in a hit-and-run who had fled his vehicle and run into an alleyway. They didn't end up catching the suspect.

Officers Shawn Gladu and Baldwin saw greater success on their first bike patrol night shift when they arrested a person and confiscated methamphetamines, Smith said. The officers also arrested several other people with outstanding warrants during that shift.

"Their first night, they had a really productive interaction, getting some people off the streets that had warrants, getting rid of some people toting controlled substance, so it was a good night," Smith said. "We had similar success the next night."

Another positive anecdote, Johnson said, occurred when officers on the night shift bike patrol smelled someone smoking marijuana in public and, after contacting him, discovered that there was a felony warrant out for his arrest and an unlawful gun in his backpack. The officers arrested the individual.

"An officer on a bicycle can see and hear things that an officer in a patrol car wouldn't be able to," Johnson said. "If (the officers) were in a patrol car, they probably wouldn't have even seen or contacted that person."

Last week, the bike patrol recovered a middle-schooler's stolen bike and returned it to her, Smith said.

In addition to law enforcement, officers emphasized that the bike patrol program is really about educating and integrating with the community.

Both Johnson and Smith said that cycling officers are much more approachable in the community than an officer in a patrol car, which enables officers to interact with members of the community more casually

"It's not all about citing people or arresting people," Johnson said.

"The businesses and the people, they like seeing you downtown, especially on the weekends, like when people are eating at Mo' Betta's, and they're sitting on the patio," Smith said.

It also gives officers the opportunity to get to know the local transient population, including instances where no illegal activity is occurring, and the officers just stop to chat.

"A lot of the local transient guys, their main transportation is riding bikes, and so some of them know a lot about bicycles and everything," Smith said. "So, when we have these bikes, it is a good conversation starter with them."

The department purchased five new bicycles for the program, as well as breathable, short-sleeve uniforms and helmets. The bikes have adjustable shocks for riding on streets and off-road and are fitted with a rack on the back for an officer's bag of essential supplies.

It costs the department about $900 to outfit an officer with a new bike and gear, Johnson said, but it tried to defray some costs by refurbishing three older bicycles owned by the department.

Those bikes are left over from LPD's previous bike patrol initiative, which became dormant several years ago due to challenges associated with equipment needs and the accreditation process, Brown said.

Because the Loveland Police Department is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, the department must comply with more than 400 standards for best practices in all of its endeavors, Brown said.

Whether the department is able to get officers onto bicycles during their shifts depends on how many people are working a shift, Smith said.

"If we only have five or six officers, it's hard for us to have someone break off and get on the bike for a couple of hours," Smith said. "Some days, we have 12-15 officers, so it's easy to have one or two people to hop on the bike, and you don't really miss them as much."

The neighboring cities of Greeley, Longmont and Fort Collins also have active bike patrols.

As to how an officer would fire a gun while riding a bike, Smith said it's not advisable, and the Law Enforcement Bicycle Association doesn't offer training for that practice.

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