by James Englert, PCI #1081
Arapahoe County (CO) Sheriffs Office
IPMBA Industry Liaison
I am all about bikes. If I could ride my bike to work every day and ride it at work every day I would be happy. Unfortunately, life and work get in the way, so I have to settle for riding to work a couple days a week and riding my bike at work as a School Resource Officer (SRO) whenever I can. Bikes are great tools for use in schools.
In July, I was accepted to do a workshop called Effectively Using Bikes in Schools at the NASRO Conference (National Association of School Resource Officers) in Orlando, Florida. For an hour and half, I talked about how great bikes are and what a tremendous resource they for schools. If you’re reading this, I doubt I need to convince you what a great tool a bike can be.
I also helped staff the IPMBA booth at the show, which gave me an opportunity to talk to SROs from all around the country. Many said they had been to an IPMBA Police Cyclist Course, but the majority of those said that while they ride bikes on duty, the do so only during summer.
I asked why. Some said their supervisors didn’t want the bikes at the school. Many said they have the option to have bikes at their schools but hadn’t considered using them during the school year. As we talked, many discovered ways they could use bikes in their schools and began to agree it was a good idea.
As an SRO, a big part of the job is building relationships with students in your school. The bike is ideal for that. Some students who may not talk to you in the school might be more likely to talk to you outside, in a different environment and in your less-formal bike uniform.
I understand some SROs have to stay inside their schools all day and rarely leave the building. However, the majority of SROs are responsible for not only the building, but also the surrounding campus and sometimes adjacent areas. Even if you patrol just that area, the bike is a great tool because you can patrol more efficiently and be more mobile and visible then when you are on foot. Because a lot of school campuses are not fully accessible by car, the bike is a more flexible and viable tool. It’s even better if you are able to actually ride the bike in the school.
In my workshop, I offered some suggestions on starting a bike patrol in the school environment. Some of my suggestions were to propose it to the school administration, explaining the advantages of bike patrol around the school and how it benefits both the school and the department. Outline the times of day during which the bike could be best utilized. Examples of such times include the morning, when the students are arriving; lunch time, when the students are outside or off campus; and after school, when students are leaving.
Of course, you will need to get your department’s approval as well by discussing with your supervisors how bikes can benefit the department as well as the schools. A big part of the process is also getting support from the community, including the business owners and residents around the school. Consider programs like Safe Routes to School to enhance your proposal and as a way to get the community and younger students involved.
Other considerations include making sure you have the appropriate gear and training for using a bike in a school. In addition to your regular gear, you should carry a school radio (if you use one) and contact numbers for key personnel, like the principal and counselors.
Also, consider how your patrol will be different on a bike as opposed to in a car. For example, you will likely be alone while on bike patrol at the school. While the Police Cyclist Course emphasizes two-officer contacts, the majority of contacts at a school will be single-officer contacts. On medium and high-risk contacts, use the bike to your advantage until your cover arrives by putting it between you and the person you are contacting.
If you are one of those SROs who only rides your bike during summer, consider using them at the school all year long. If you are an instructor, encourage your SRO students to use their bikes in their schools, and ask them what you can do to enhance their ability to operate safely in a school environment.
This article only barely covers the use of bikes in schools. There are many advantages for bike patrol and using the bikes at schools. If you have ideas about other advantages of bikes in schools, school-specific tactics, or other tools to carry in the school, please send them my way. If you have some good stories involving bikes at schools, I’d really like to hear those as well.
If you want to learn more, please come to the 2014 IPMBA Conference, May 21-23, 2014, in Tampa, and attend my workshop.
James Englert is a School Resource Office in Centennial CO. He is training to become an instructor with NASRO (National Association of School Resource Officers). He was certified as an IPMBA Instructor in 2008 and currently serves as the Industry Liaison on the IPMBA board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2013 IPMBA. This article appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of IPMBA News.