by Officer Jeff Shari, PCI#730/EMSCI #141
Cincinnati Police Division
After being newly assigned as the bike coordinator for the Cincinnati Police Department, my first concern was to identify problems within the unit. I began riding with different members and started noticing cycling mistakes that are usually addressed in the basic cycling course. At first, it was simple mistakes such as improper gear ratios for hills and not using the power pedal position for curbs; but then I noticed tactical mistakes such as improper contact/cover. As I voiced my concern, one officer, an eight-year veteran on bikes, mentioned “well, we haven’t practiced some of this stuff since bike school.” Then it hit me; we need training!
Training? Where to start? My first problem was the administration. How could I convince the administration to allow me to take 85 officers out of their assignments for additional bicycle training? The key phrase used by most police academies is “continuous training” or “continuous education.” All officers receive annual in-service training and firearms training. Special units such as SWAT, K-9, and Mounted Units are always training. Why do they get training?
Liability! The chance of a suspect, civilian or an officer getting injured is higher if an officer is not trained properly. The last thing a city wants to hear from an attorney is “failure to train.” But after thinking it through and preparing for a battle, all it took was a written request. Your administration can’t think of everything. Sometimes you have to think for them and suggest ideas. What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll say “no,” and you will come up with another way to ask!
Now that I had the permission, I needed a program. First, I researched any additional training I could find. I think I can enter the IPMBA web site in my sleep now. Once my research was completed, I began my lesson plan. After it was written and scrutinized by the instructor cadre, and myself, we went over it again. We implemented the training in April, with great success.
DAY ONE: The first four hours were easy. I got with my range master and used normal basic firearms training: reviewing stance, trigger pull, and line of sight techniques. I was basically letting the students warm up and get familiar with their weapons. The only stipulation was that the officers had to be in their bike uniforms – I believe in training as if it were real. After the firearms familiarization, we introduced the bicycle. I tried to think of every scenario I have encountered or could possibly encounter on a bike. For example, officer needs assistance, a scenario in which you would ride hard for a short distance, dismount, and run a short way before encountering your target. As we practiced all these scenarios, my number one concern was safety. In any firearms training, even though you want it to seem as real as possible, you can never overlook safety.
DAY TWO: Now that tactics were taken care of, “basic skills” was my next obstacle. Like most instructors, I faced the problem of how to teach a basic skill without boring the students, most of whom are veteran bike officers. So I thought, “what does every cyclist want to do? Ride, of course!” I mapped out an 18-mile route and implemented all the basic skills within that route. I didn’t even do a classroom session; instead, I announced reminders at the top of each of the three hills that were implemented into the ride. This gave the students a chance to rest while I worked in my lesson. The ride included group riding techniques, gear ratios, road hazards, pedal retention, and even health and fitness. After a long lunch, I reviewed low speed skills, had a cone course competition, and finally, hosted a roundtable discussion.
Listening to the feedback during the roundtable was great. There were no complaints, and everyone enjoyed the training. But there has been more than just verbal feedback. I have noticed what seems to be a newly energized bike unit. Officers are becoming more active, supervisors have created task forces and the media has again become interested in the bike unit. I have found that continuous education for bike officers is essential for maintaining an active and effective bike unit.
In addition, one of my instructors and myself attended the IPMBA Intermediate Cyclist Course during the IPMBA conference, which gave us all kinds of new ideas for next years in-service training. I can’t wait to try them out!
© 2004 IPMBA. This article first appeared in the Summer 2004 issue of IPMBA News.