by Gustavo Olguin, Friday, November 9th 2018, KIMA TV
YAKIMA, Wash.- They ride around on two tires instead of four, but they're still armed and ready to arrest you if they see you doing something illegal.
Yakima's bike patrol unit is often seen around downtown for events but interim police chief Gary Jones said he wants to expand their role.
Such as assisting the gang unit to stop or solve crimes around the city.
“A criminal gang member may participate in a number of crimes in a number of parts of the city. So, I think we need to use a multi-facet approach for how we attack that,” Jones said.
One reason for that is how low-key the officers can be on bikes. They have a bright green reflector shirt on, but that's less noticeable than a marked patrol car coming down the street with its lights on.
“If someone has left a residence, they're going to see patrol cars coming. Whereas we can sneak in through an alley really quick,” officer Einar Agledal said.
Right now, the Yakima Police Department (YPD) operates the bike unit with officers who are willing to work overtime hours and is funded through a $50,000 federal grant.
Agledal patrols downtown on a bike and in a patrol car. He said the bike is much easier for him to chase somebody who's running away on foot.
“It takes a while to get turned around and there's one way streets. So, I have to go around two and a half blocks to get around to the alley I need,” he said.
Jones was part of Yakima’s bike unit back in 1988 and wants to get a full-time patrol unit roaming the streets of downtown.
But to do that, the department is going to need more officers.
YPD currently has about 130 officers with room to add 14 more to their ranks.
Jones said the closer they get to 144, the better chance they have of adding more to patrol.
“Once those levels stabilize a little bit so that we're filling our shifts appropriately, then we can look at advancing some of these special units again,” he said.
Some may think they look silly rolling around on bikes but Jones said they can be a big part of keeping the city safe.
Jones said they currently have six officers going through training to join the force and a few others that will be coming back from disability soon.
He said they’ll be able to spend more on the bike patrol unit as more officers come back.