By Erik S. Hanley, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal Published 5:23 a.m. CT June 13, 2018
(Photo: Submitted by South Milwaukee Police Department)
SOUTH MILWAUKEE - The Police Department is singing the praise of the bicycle by adding the bike patrol back to the streets.
When Chief William Jessup took over in January 2018, he said his No. 1 priority was getting to know the department and the needs of the community.
“The more I looked into it the more I felt we needed a better connection and better engagement,” Jessup said. “We needed more activities like bike patrol and foot patrol.”
Officer Tim Lewison began riding about a month ago. He said people often stop in their cars to tell him they are glad to see the bicycle patrol in South Milwaukee.
“It has given me a better opportunity to talk with the citizens on a more regular basis about their neighborhoods and their general concerns about their neighborhood, if any,” Lewison said.
Jessup said the department acquired a few Trek bicycles many years ago — he estimated they are about 15 or 20 years old, but in good shape. They were taken in for a tune-up at South Shore Cyclery in Cudahy and they are now in use by nine officers out of the 33 at the department who volunteered for the patrol.
South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks praised the return of the bicycle patrol on his blog. He said the last time South Milwaukee had a bicycle patrol was in 2010.
"The next time you see an officer on a bike, be sure to say hello and thank them for keeping us safe, one pedal push at a time," Brooks wrote.
Jessup said South Milwaukee is a “perfect fit for officers on bikes” due to the mix of residential and business along with the large park.
“The response has been positive from the public,” he said. “These (bicycles) get officers in the public and interacting with citizens more than vehicle patrols. Getting to know the citizens and knowing their needs is positive for officers.”
Police Officer Daniel Doering, a former Milwaukee County deputy, said he loves the new bicycle patrol and that it offers officers a lot of exercise. Though it has only been in operation for a few weeks, he, too, said there has been a lot of positive feedback.
While response time can be an issue on a bicycle depending on the situation, he said an advantage is getting to use your senses more.
“There’s nothing like riding around on a bicycle at 8:30 in the morning and smelling marijuana coming from a nearby block,” Doering said.
Squad car versus bicycle shifts
When it comes to police work on a bicycle, it’s different than when in a regular squad car. Jessup said there is a 32-hour nationally recognized course from the International Police Mountain Biking Association (IPMBA). He said the course covers safe riding, how to maintain bicycles, exercise, and overall how officers can get the most out of the patrol.
A police mountain bicycle is similar to a standard mountain bike, Jessup said. The accessories that were added include a water bottle, small carrier bag, and red-and-blue strobe lights. Officers have special uniforms for the patrol, which includes reflective material to help them be seen.
The department has a bicycle patrol scheduled for all three shifts. Bicycle shifts can include the entire time on the bicycle, a few hours riding, or having a bicycle attached to a squad car for optional bicycle patrols throughout a shift.
A common patrol for Doering is where two bicycles are attached to a rack on a squad car. He and his partner will park, lock up the squad, and take the bikes out. He said it’s a different experience on a bicycle since you’re very exposed.
Jessup said the shifts are mainly during the day in summer, but there are occasions for patrols in the evening and during the night. The patrols cover both the business areas as well as residential. Additionally, Jessup said bicycles are good for park patrols on weekends and during holiday events.
New addition to the fleet
While the department currently is running the standard Trek mountain bicycles, a new type of bicycle may soon be added to the fleet — a Cheata Bike.
Cheata Bicycles are built by hand in South Milwaukee and feature motors that can propel the bicycle up to 30 miles per hour without pedaling — though the pedals are functional.
Jessup said the department is currently in talks with the company to add a Cheata bike to the fleet. He said the motorized bicycle would be helpful in Grant Park and other similar areas.
No extra training other than the operation of the motor is expected to be required, though officers will likely have more protective gear than just a helmet if using the Cheata bicycle.
If a resident is interested in a Cheata bicycle, only a regular bike license is required to operate due to the inclusion of pedals and the engine limitations. Jessup said they can be legally operated both in the bicycle lanes and in the road.
Cheata bicycles range from about $1,800 to almost $4,000 depending on component options and paint.