Three USC Police Department officers underwent bike patrol training this summer, a community initiative that the department believes has both social and tactical benefits.
Officers who participated were volunteers and received training by an investigator within the department who is a member of the International Police Mountain Bike Association. The training, offered from July 31 to Aug. 4, included 32 hours of instruction on how to maintain and safely operate a bike.
However, actual field experience on the bike may be less predictable as the officers routines are not set in stone, according to Capt. Eric Grabski.
"There's really not a set route. It depends, like on a Friday night we might be in different places than we would be on a Wednesday at one o'clock in the afternoon," he said.
The bike patrol unit was established in 1992 mainly to strengthen community relations which is conveyed in the officer's training.
"What this training does is it not only helps with the community oriented policing side of things, but it also talks about those tactical things," Grabski said.
Grabski said that since the start of the bike patrol unit, the department had been getting more feedback from the community.
"When we first initiated a bike unit back in the 90's, we found immediately that the community was approaching us more often and that we were getting more information from the community — good and bad stuff from the community — because officers were on the bike," Grabski said.
Bikes also offer more efficiency in policing parts of USC's campus that aren't easily accessible by driving, according to Grabski.
“We can get there more quickly often because let’s say you’re on Pendleton Street and something happens on Greene Street," Grabski said. "Well, if you’re in a car you have to go all the way around. You're on a bike, you just go right through.”
Student's willingness to approach officers on bicycles was another factor in the concept's success.
“We have some electric bicycles too in our stock. So, that’s a whole different level of coolness, and I think students will note that and go, ‘Wow that’s pretty cool,' and start a conversation,” he said.
Yet, some students had differing opinions on the presence of officers on bikes, questioning its efficiency.
“I understand they can get around faster rather than walking, but at the same time, how much of a difference would that be from just a cop walking?” said third-year broadcast journalism student Amanda Anderson said.
Others said that regardless of the method of transportation, they felt more secure having officers present.
“Basically just any police presence would make me feel comfortable,” said second-year chemistry student Luci Green.
Grabski also said that officers riding bikes may cause less anxiety about potential disruptions.
“When an officer would ride up on a bike, it would be like 'Oh,'" Grabski said, "There was the understanding that they weren’t here because something went wrong or because somebody needed help, but they were there just as kind of a community contact or a community outreach.”