by Bob Hatcher, PCI #629/EMSCI #103
Delaware (OH) Police Department
IPMBA Vice President
Ohio University (OU) in Athens, Ohio, is known as one of the top party schools in the nation. One major event that contributes to the University’s reputation is their annual Halloween Party, which attracts between 20,000 and 30,000 party-goers each year. Athens Police and OU Police have only 25–30 officers each, so managing a party this size would be impossible without the help of police officers from other agencies. With the outside assistance requested by the Athens and OU Police Departments, the law enforcement presence during the annual party numbers more than 125 officers.
In 2012, the Delaware Police Department sent three bicycle patrol officers and a supervisor to Athens to assist with security for the party. Delaware saw this as an opportunity to offer assistance to OU in return for the support they have given during Delaware’s bike patrol school. It was also an excellent training venue through which Delaware police officers could gain experience in crowd management techniques and patrolling a large event on bicycle.
Upon arrival, our three bike officers were assigned to teams with OU and Lancaster (OH) Police Department bicycle officers. I was assigned to a team that included OU Officer Kevin Frith and Lancaster PD Officer Noah Bookman. After a briefing and swearing-in by the city of Athens, we started patrol. Our assignment was to patrol the campus and off-campus housing areas. While the organized party takes place downtown, many private parties, initiated by students, occur in the off-campus housing. Throughout the chilly, damp night, we responded to numerous calls for service as well as engaged in self-initiated activity related to occurrences witnessed during patrol.
With fifteen minutes left in the detail, Frith, Bookman and I were riding down a hill. We saw a group of students ahead of us. Two other people were walking between us and the larger group. One of the two was yelling “Don’t walk by my house again.” As we got closer, still unnoticed by any of the pedestrians, the person who was yelling drew a gun and pointed it at the group. He called out, “If you come by my house again, I’ll shoot you.” I whispered the obvious, “He’s got a gun.” The larger group ran down a set of stairs to escape.
Without having to discuss a plan, our team of bike officers reacted to the dangerous situation. We took advantage of the speed and quiet operation of our bicycles, dismounting only when we were close enough to take action. I drew my weapon and covered the subject as Frith moved closer, executing an impressive tackle over a table. While Frith worked to subdue the subject, I focused on the weapon in his hand. I holstered my weapon and grabbed the subject’s weapon hand. While I controlled his gun hand, Frith pinned the subject to the ground. Bookman moved in to take the weapon, and the subject was handcuffed without further incident.
As we looked a bit closer, we realized that the semi-automatic handgun was a realistic-looking toy. The subject apologized repeatedly, explaining that he was dressed as a character from “Starsky and Hutch” for Halloween. He said he was just “messing with” the group ahead of him. The subject had been drinking and his inebriated condition had clearly interfered with his judgment. He was taken into custody.
An argument could be made for dismounting, finding cover, and calling out to the drunken college student who was holding the gun. My fear was that if we had called out to him, he might have turned, toy gun in hand, toward us, pointing what appeared to be a weapon in our direction, a mistake that would have ended in tragedy. Due to the stealth and speed of our bikes, we were able to move in quickly, before the subject was aware of our presence, and gain control of a dangerous situation with minimal risk to ourselves and the student.
Perhaps the most impressive detail of this story is that our team consisted of three officers from three different departments, with different experiences and departmental training on which to draw.
What we had in common was our IPMBA training. Because IPMBA’s curriculum is the same, whether it is being taught in central Ohio or in any other part of the world, we were able to work as a team from the first moments of our patrol duties. IPMBA training gave us the skills to respond to this incident using the bikes to our advantage, and a mutual understanding which enabled us to respond quickly and effectively to a very dangerous situation, bringing it to an end without anyone being hurt.
Robert is an officer for the city of Delaware in Ohio. He currently serves as a member of the department’s bike patrol and is the lead bike instructor and bike mechanic. He holds the position of Vice President on the IPMBA Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.
© 2013 IPMBA. This article appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of IPMBA News.