Rock Falls police easing into bike patrols

Short-handed department searching for three officers

BY PAM EGGEMEIER, Sauk Valley.com, July 27, 2018

ROCK FALLS – A pedaling police presence could become commonplace when the city’s police department is back to full strength.

Police Chief Tammy Nelson told the Rock Falls Police and Fire Commission on Thursday that she wants to introduce the use of bike patrols.

“Bikes were donated to us 6 years ago, but they’ve never been used,” Nelson said. “We’ve decided to get them out, do some maintenance and put lights on them.”

The concept of bike patrols, an important tool in community policing and monitoring special events, will be eased in because the department is short-staffed.

“We’ll just use the bikes for special detail for now because we’re in the process of trying to hire three officers to fill vacancies,” Nelson said.

The special detail work will likely include Rock Falls Days and an ever-increasing number of special events at the riverfront. Bikes allow for better visibility and accessibility in crowded settings.

Nelson has an officer waitlist of 18, but she is concerned about how quickly she’s going through it. Some candidates are also on the fire department waitlist. Then there is the matter of securing spots at the police academy.

“If we can find three people quickly, it’s possible we can still get in for the October session,” Nelson said.

[Bicycles like this Trek police bike were donated to the Rock Falls Police Department 6 years ago and now the chief wants to dust off the cobwebs, oil up the gears and get them on the street for a bicycle patrol.]

A couple of officers are missing some time to fulfill military obligations, which is adding to the staffing stress.

At full strength, the police department has 22 officers, including command, patrol and detectives.

So far, four officers have signed up for bike patrol duties.

Also, Twin City Fire Command Chief Gary Cook told the commission he will have to find a replacement for one of his two right-hand men. Deputy Chief Bill Milby plans to retire and Cook has received his resignation letter.

Milby has been with the Rock Falls Fire Department for more than 31 years. Mike Dettman is deputy fire chief on the Sterling side.

The current fire department waitlist expires at the end of August. The next testing date for new hires is set for Aug. 18.

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