Patrolling on two wheels

By Denise Ellen Rizzo, Tracy Press, April 4, 2018

Photo: Officer Graham Hawkinson makes his way up the stairs behind City Hall during the second day of bike patrol training Tuesday. He is one of five volunteers who have joined Tracy Police Department’s bike patrol unit.

Tracy CA -- More Tracy police officers will be patrolling the downtown area this summer, but instead of walking or riding in patrol cars, they will be making their way around on two wheels.

“We’re kind of really focusing on downtown, getting rid of some of the security issues,” said Cpl. Dan Pasquale, who is training five new bike unit officers with Officer Libby Orvick.

“The bike patrol is great, because it’s high visibility,” Pasquale said while the new recruits rode their police department mountain bikes up and down the stairs behind Tracy City Hall on Tuesday afternoon.

“Everybody sees you,” he said. “It’s also super friendly, because you can stop and talk, kids will wave to you, you can stop by stores. A lot more accessible than the traditional police car.”

The five officers volunteered to join 10 other Tracy police officers who were certified to ride bike patrols more than a decade ago. In addition to their regular assignments, they will be able to pick up overtime riding a patrol bike around the downtown area for six- or eight-hour shifts.

“Between foot patrol and bikes, there will be coverage downtown at least four to five days (per week),” Pasquale said. “The nice thing too for bike patrol is you can get in and out of all the nooks and crannies downtown. You can get anywhere.”

The bike unit will eventually be used for parades and will expand to the areas around and inside the West Valley Mall and the Naglee Road corridor during the holiday shopping season, Pasquale said. The officers also plan to patrol other Tracy business areas on Tracy Boulevard and Clover Road.

Before teaching the new bike officers, Pasquale and Orvick attended a weeklong police certified basic training for bike units and instructors.

The volunteers began their two days of in-house training Monday. They practiced riding around obstacles that simulated people on sidewalks, maneuvering up and down stairs, and shooting a gun while riding.

“It’s been fun. It’s not hard, but you have to get over things that don’t make sense,” said Officer Robert Brandi, who is among the department’s five new riders. “Like, when you were a little kid, you used to pop a wheelie to get up over a curb; now you just got to ride over the curb. You used to jump over stairs, now you just ride down stairs. Just change your mindset from when you were young or a kid to now as far as how you ride proficient so you don’t get hurt.”

The other new bike officers are Diana Ruiz-Del Re, Graham Hawkinson, David Ventling and Josh Petitt.

Each officer has been issued a new 2017-18 Specialized mountain bike, which cost $800 to $1,000 each. Pasquale, an avid triathlete, said Specialized is among the top three manufacturers of mountain bikes, triathlon bikes and bicycles for road races such as the Tour de France.

“It will be good for downtown patrol,” Brandi said. “We can kind of go where cars can’t. Where you use motorcycles for that type of stuff, because they can go where cars can’t — well, now the bikes can go where cars can’t. It’s a lot faster than walking a beat on foot.”

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