By Megan Henry, The Columbus Dispatch, June 8, 2017
DELAWARE — Arms full of empty water bottles, Courtney Pickett tossed them one by one at police officers on bikes Wednesday as they weaved their way through cones while dodging projectiles — and insults — from the zombie horde.
Smoke had just been set off in the controlled obstacle course to mimic the tear gas that officers might experience out in the streets. In this exercise, the streets were the scene of a zombie apocalypse.
Pickett was among a couple of dozen volunteers dressed as zombies at Delaware County Fairgrounds, part of the crowd-management course of the 27th International Police Mountain Bike Association Conference. The course focused on how to maintain a crowd during events such as festivals and civil disorders, with the zombies serving as the unruly crowd.
In one scenario, the officers used their bikes as a fence to push the crowd back. In another, the zombies pounded on the doorways of buildings, trying to gain access before officers peeled them off the walls.
Halloween is Pickett’s favorite holiday, so she jumped at the opportunity to dress as a zombie in the summertime. Her favorite part of the afternoon was throwing the water bottles at the officers.
“You don’t get that opportunity out there (on the streets),” said Pickett, 28, of Delaware.
Founded in 1992, the bike association is a nonprofit group committed to encouraging the use of bikes for public safety, providing network opportunities for cyclists and offering training for public-safety cyclists.
An advantage for a police officer on a bike is the ability to go places not reachable by car.
The Delaware Police Department is hosting the annual event this week. The conference began on Monday and will wrap up Saturday.
Delaware Police Officer Bob Hatcher, who has been a member of the association since 2000, put in a bid for the city to host the conference two years ago.
“It was kind of like the Olympics,” Hatcher said.
Between instructors and attendees, nearly 300 people have registered for the conference, which is primarily at Ohio Wesleyan University. This is the first time a college campus has hosted the conference.
The weeklong conference includes a range of training and certification courses as well as a series of workshops, including Bike Handling Skill Development, Street Survival and Technical/Off-Road Skill Building.
This is not the conference’s first time in the Buckeye State. Cincinnati and Dayton were hosts in 2001 and 2006, respectively.