by Michael Gommer, PCI #1105
Upper Dublin (PA) Police Department
I am fortunate to work for a police department that values its bike patrol unit and has placed a strong emphasis on bike patrol training. Each year, the police department sends representatives to the annual IPMBA conference to ensure that we are receiving the most up-to-date bike patrol training and exposure to the latest bike patrol products.
Annually, my police department requires all twenty officers assigned to our Bike Patrol Unit to successfully complete in-service training. This training is important for many reasons. First, it affords our department the opportunity to disseminate the latest training information and review basic riding skills. Second, it permits the administration an opportunity to evaluate each rider to ensure that they have maintained the high level of physical fitness and bike skills necessary to remain on the unit. Finally, the training provides an opportunity for our unit to operate as a team, something that our part-time riders rarely do.
It is my challenge, as the police department’s bike patrol instructor, to develop an in-service training program that meets all of the above objectives, is fundamentally sound and is also fun. We have, in the past, developed training centered around GPS Geocaching where officers, operating as a team, use a GPS-enabled device to ride to a specific set of GPS coordinates. The GPS device does not give them street-by-street directions but rather points them in the direction of the targeted location. Upon their arrival, the officers compete, in teams, in various cone skills courses. This training program forces the officers to operate as a unit, have intimate knowledge of our jurisdiction, and perform basic and advanced skills on the cone courses.
This year we stole the concept of flag football and created a fast-paced, capture-the-flag game. The officers rode to a local baseball field where they were outfitted with two flags placed on their backs. The officers were then divided into teams and provided with the rules of the competition. They were told to operate as a team and remove the flags off of the opposing team members. As officers lost their two flags, they were eliminated from the game. The team with the last officer standing won the game. This game was beneficial because it mimicked the real life bike pursuit of a subject while navigating various terrains. The infield dirt and the outfield grass posed interesting surface hazards to the officers throughout the competition.
The officers had to maintain complete control of their bicycles while in pursuit and while being pursued. They also strengthened their communication skills with members of their team and improved their ability to work together.
I would encourage all bike patrol unit commanders to consider the many benefits of annual bike patrol in-service training. Annual training is an essential tool to keep their bike unit operating at a high skill level.
Michael Gommer is a Detective with the Upper Dublin Township Police Department in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. He is an IPMBA Police Cyclist Instructor (PCI #1105) and is the lead trainer and a team leader of the Montgomery County (PA) Major Incident Response Team’s (MIRT) Bike Response Team (BRT).
(c) 2013 IPMBA. This article appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of IPMBA News.