Putting Your Explorers on Bikes

by James Englert, PCI #1081
Arapahoe County (CO) Sheriffs Office
IPMBA Membership Coordinator

As a school resource officer, I try to involve our Explorers as much as possible.  They participate in events around the school and in the community.  Many police departments and sheriff’s offices have Explorers or similar programs.  As IPMBA instructors and members, we should ask ourselves if we are effectively utilizing this resource.

Last year, I had what I thought was a brilliant idea – instructing Explorers how to operate bikes for public safety.  (I learned later that some IPMBA instructors have been teaching Explorers for years).  I approached the board and asked for their suggestions and help on developing a class intended for Explorers.  It was decided that it made sense to follow the 24-hour Security Cyclist outline, including the same cone courses and written test.

I approached my department and the Explorers with my intentions and my views on how this program would benefit the department and Explorers.  Both were fully supportive.

Having gained approval to conduct the class, I told the Explorers what was expected of them.  Of the 15 Explorers, there were about eight that I thought were dependable.  I figured my biggest obstacle was going to be scheduling and getting them to show up, since they are students who are in school, work, or both.

The Explorers understood that they needed to attend all the training sessions and take both written and on-bike tests in order to pass the class.  The training would be held on Tuesday nights for four hours and a couple of Saturdays for about eight hours.

We held our first Tuesday night class in March, after a snow storm.  We planned to meet the following Saturday for eight hours of classroom time and some bike riding.  On that first day of riding, I was impressed that all the Explorers came prepared to ride in cold weather, had brought helmets and eye protection, and were very interested on getting on the bikes.  We would meet again on a Tuesday about two weeks later and then again on the following Saturday. 

Nine Explorers finished the class successfully and were awarded certificates of completion.

If you decide to put your Explorers on bikes, here are some things to consider while planning the class.

  • What are the Explorers going to wear?   My Explorers just wore a polo-type shirts and black shorts, not uniforms.
  • Is the instructor going to get paid?  I was lucky that my department paid me for my time.  Other instructors who have taught Explorer cyclist courses have done so on their own time.
  • What bikes are available for the Explorers? Is your department going to let you use the department’s bikes or do the Explorers have to bring their bikes?  If they are supplying their own, they need high-quality mountain bikes, from reputable manufacturers, equipped with pedal retention and other safety equipment, such as lights.  It is your responsibility to ensure their bikes are suitable and safe to ride. 

Recipe for Success

  • Promote the course to your supervisors and the Explorers to get as much support as possible.  Cite ways that Explorers on bikes can meet your department’s needs and further involve them in events and other activities.
  • Be flexible with time.  Even if you advise the students that they need to attend every class, there are going to be those who miss a class.  Have a plan for how those students can make up the missed classes, but set a deadline for make-ups, and don’t let it linger.
  • Do a lot of review.  Particularly if your class does not take place over consecutive days, you will have to refresh their memories with questions at the beginning, end, and during each class.
  • Don’t extend the class over too many weeks.  My class was spread out over five days and a little more than a month.  I could see that in the last couple of classes, the Explorers were getting tired and wanted to get it done.
  • Keep the class moving, and keep the students occupied.  If you are working one-on-one with a student, have games or bike-related activities to keep the other students engaged. Just like any class, there are going to be those students who really excel and those who need a little extra help.

James has been a deputy with Arapahoe County Sheriffs Office for 14 years and a school resource officer for the past five.  He was certified as an IPMBA Police Cyclist in 2006 and as an IPMBA Instructor in 2008.  He is currently serving as Membership Coordinator on the IPMBA Board. 

(c) 2012 IPMBA.  This article appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of IPMBA News

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