By Stephanie Sorrell-White, The Times-Telegram, August 7, 2017
HERKIMER — As visitors to the Diamond Days Street Festival enjoyed the food, music and dunk tank over the weekend, the Herkimer Police Department’s bicycle patrol had a presence.
Patrolmen Matthew Wright and Vito Carbone said the bike patrol was able to provide service at the festival and other events in Herkimer over the summer, including the Little League parade and the Arc 5K run.
Police Chief Michael Jory said the department was “looking forward to having an increased bike patrol presence.”
“The bike patrol has been around for several years, however, due to low staffing and the need for equipment, it has been difficult to utilize the bike officers as much as we would like,” he said in an email. “Having the bike officers on Main Street, around the high school, in the parks and at community events as much as possible is our ultimate goal.”
The newly revived bike patrol has four officers trained to take part in the special detail. Besides Wright and Carbone, Officers Joe Valent and Shauna Jones are part of the team. The police department has three bicycles for the patrol. A bike patrol officer is normally scheduled for every shift and will be available as much as possible, pending on the weather.
Wright said he originally went through bike patrol training about four years ago, which included skills for riding a bicycle up and down stairs, quick dismounts with the kickstands, qualifying to use firearms while on the bicycle and even how to “fall” off the bike at a high speed.
“You have to eject off of it and go into a somersault,” he said.
Carbone attended one-week bike patrol training in June in Ithaca where, he noted, are some hills.
“I thought it was challenging. I took a couple of falls,” he said.
Jory said while the expense and training can be costly, it’s worth it.
“We are currently using older generic bikes, which are not rated as police performance bikes. Each officer needs to have specific uniforms and jackets — with reflective lettering — footwear and helmets,” he said in an email. ”... As any worthy program, the bike patrol comes with a cost, but we feel that it is a valuable asset to the community.”
Wright and Carbone felt there are benefits to having an active bike patrol.
Officers are able to go about their usual duties with use of the bicycles, including writing parking tickets and investigating calls. The bikes are equipped with a gear bag to keep items officers would need for any patrol.
Wright and Carbone said they saw the benefits of being part of the bike patrol.
“You’re a lot more communicative with the community,” said Wright, during an interview at the station on Monday. “People really like seeing you out there. If you’re in a car going down the street, there’s not an opportunity to talk to the people.”
“You can hear stuff [you wouldn’t normally hear when inside a vehicle] and go places cars can’t go,” said Carbone.
Use of the bicycles also give them the ability to approach suspects more discreetly.
“At night, they don’t even see me coming,” said Carbone.
“You’re able to approach suspects,” said Wright.
Wright said the bike patrol has been an asset to the department.
“There’s a lot more benefits than cons other than just getting to calls,” he said. ”... It’s a very nice tool to have. It’s a very useful tool for our department.”
Wright said being able to do the bike patrol is his “favorite part of the job.”
“It’s very nice to go out there and get some fresh air ... as long as the conditions are good and we can be out.”