By Darrell Smith, The Connersville News Examiner, Jun 19, 2018
Just as kids in the community take their bikes to the streets in warmer months, so do the police.
The three-year-old Connersville Police Department bike patrol has been out once in 2018 but the hope is to be out more often, especially when the Fayette County Free Fair opens in late July.
The current patrol consists of Lt. Ryan Sherwood and Officers Dean Rowland, Brad Rosser, Marc Koons and Josh Durstine.
The delay in hitting the streets this summer is due to vacancies at the department that does not permit the patrol to be out as much, Rosser said. If the department gets to full strength, then the patrol can be out more. The patrols always work in pairs so taking two officers out of their vehicles is difficult at times.
“Last year, I think we were averaging about five or six shifts a month, depending on manpower,” he said. “We’d do different hours, sometimes first shift into second and some second into third. A couple times last year I think we actually worked a straight third shift.”
Durstine is a first year member of the patrol, taking over for Officer Clint Brown.
“I just wanted to learn a different type of policing rather than just riding around in a vehicle,” he said.
Working off a bike instead of being isolated in the patrol car gives a different perspective in many aspects of police work.
“You interact with people a lot more and people see you a lot more,” Rosser explained. “You hear, smell and see things you don’t normally hear, smell and see when you’re in a car at 30 mph. It’s fun and good physical exercise.”
When working patrol, the team will go all over town from the soccer fields to Hanson Meadows then up to Offutt’s Park and the Nickel Plate Trail, Rosser said. The bikes can go on the trails at Smalley’s Lake, where cars cannot go. They can cover a lot of ground in eight hours on a bike.
The bikes give a good view for seat belt enforcement, he said. The bikes are not good for speeding violations but many other violations, the officers can flag down a car and pull them over.
If the need arises and an arrest is made, the bike patrol officers will take a person into custody and hold them while calling for an officer in a car who can transport the person to the Fayette County Jail, he said.
Durstine agreed the bike officer offers some additional flexibility such as being easier to patrol alleys. The officers can meet the people who are out walking that really cannot be done from the car.
The one time the officers did make it out on bikes, he said the community members stopped them several times to talk.
“They enjoyed seeing us out on bikes,” he said. “It’s something different for them, because they’re not used to it. They thanked us. You feel more appreciated from the community even in this community that is very supportive of law enforcement. It made the job that much better.”
“We’ve had pretty positive response from the community,” Rosser said. “A lot of people are happy to see us in the areas we’re in just because they’re not used to seeing motor patrols.”
As the season begins, the bike patrol team goes through a training class led by Detective Craig Hamilton on not just navigating obstacles, but tactical dismounts to go from the bike into a situation that may require pulling a weapon, he said. It’s not just riding bikes around, it’s being ready for anything they may have to deal with in the line of duty.
“There are certain ways to ride such as when you’re in a public gathering like the fair,” Durstine said. “Another enjoyable aspect for me, you train differently versus you’re in your car everyday and there are different tactics. It was a good experience and eye-opener for me.”
The guys on the patrol are those that are typically working out and are physically fit to be able to ride for hours at a time, Rosser said.
Durstine said the day they did go out, they assisted other officers on a call, but it is more of just being a presence in the community in a different manner.
For Rosser, working in the fair is the most enjoyable part of the bike patrol.
“It’s not just about catching criminals and doing law enforcement stuff, it’s a fantastic way for us to interact with the community in a way we don’t typically get to interact,” he said. “Fair week is a lot of fun. We get to talk with folks and the kids and at the same, and if law enforcement action is needed, we’re there.”
Even with the hot weather, Durstine said if given a choice of being on a bike or in car, he would chose the bike.
“It’s really hot because you still have your vest on, but we’re wearing shorts instead of pants,” he said. “Being able to exercise and do your job at the same time is a win-win for me. In the winter, you’re in the car anyway but when the weather is nice, I’ll do it everyday.”