Greenfield Police office Steve McCarley rides part-time - mostly during special events . A full-time bicycle patrol will hit the streets of the city this summer. Staff photo by Tom Russo
Greenfield Police office Steve McCarley rides part-time - mostly during special events . A full-time bicycle patrol will hit the streets of the city this summer. Staff photo by Tom Russo
GREENFIELD — Steve McCarly considers it a “good day” when he gets to ride his bike on patrol. McCarley, a corporal with the Greenfield Police Department, is an avid cyclist and will be heading the department’s bike patrols in 2019.

The department has used bike patrols sparingly the past couple of years — mostly during community events — but officials recently decided to bring the patrols back permanently.

It’s been nine years since the department has run continuous bike patrols during warmer months. The detail fell off considerably in the years after the death of Officer Will Phillips in 2010. Phillips, 32, a bike patrol officer, was killed Sept. 30, 2010, when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver while on a training ride with fellow officers.

Matt Holland, GPD deputy chief, said the four-person bike detail slowed down after Phillips’s death but dropped off mainly due to funding.

With more officers now expressing an interest to ride again, and funds available, Holland is looking to start a full four-person bike patrol.

“I think it will be a good community relations tool,” Holland said. “It will really get our officers out there.”

The plan is to purchase two new bicycles, for around $1,700 each, this year to go along with two older bikes they already have. The department will purchase two new bicycles in 2020.

Bike patrols are popular with law enforcement organizations.

Cumberland, Zionsville, Columbus, Lafayette, Noblesville and Fort Wayne are some of the communities in Indiana that have found success putting officers on bikes.

History shows riders first took to the streets in the late 1860s in an attempt to find a less expensive alternative to mounted horse patrols.

Treven Brown is a bike patrol instructor with the national Law Enforcement Bicycle Association and is also a Fort Wayne police officer. His department chose officers to work full time on bicycle patrol for more than half of the year in rotating 90-day assignments to test the system.

The benefits of the program helped department officials to start a full-time bicycle patrol program in February.

“It is a wonderful way to build relationships with citizens,” Brown said.

He has also found properly trained officers using bicycles are far less detectable than those in vehicles and can approach illegal activity from almost unlimited angles — not just via streets, to which police cars are limited.

Brown’s community saw a major drop in drug crimes in parks once officers started riding their bikes there, sometimes even being able to ride right up on illegal activity, he said.

McCarley is one of the GPD officers who can’t wait to get back out riding on the streets during the warm months, he said.

He’s been on the part-time bike patrol for the past couple of years when the department has needed someone to ride during community events. He also sees the bike patrols having big benefits.

“When we’re on bikes we can go a lot of places a police car might not be able to go,” McCarley said.

The GPD patrols will include rides along the 5.6 mile Pennsy Trial. They’ll also ride into tight places such as alleys and other places patrol cars can’t go. But their main goal will be to maintain a more visible presence.

“It will be great to be able to ride from business to business and through the neighborhoods and just check in on people,” McCarley said.

McCarley particularly sees the patrols as being a great community relations tool, even giving officers a chance to teach area youngsters bicycle safety.

“Adults and kids both like to see the police bikes because it’s something different,” McCarley said.

The officers are hoping to write tickets, for free ice cream cones, for young riders who wear the proper safety gear, Holland said.

The police bikes will be fully equipped with police lights and sirens. It’s not all public relations: Officers still will write tickets and make arrests if necessary. Only their mode of transportation will be different.

An officer on the bike patrol can expect to ride 15 to 20 miles a day, McCarley said, but most don’t mind and are good with being able to get in a cardiovascular workout on the job.

If GPD can get at least four officers to be a part of the team, the idea is for officers to ride in pairs, particularly during big events such as the Riley Festival.

The department’s outdoor special event schedule has doubled over the past couple of years, Holland said, creating a need to make officers more visible and not just driving by in cars.

Holland also likes the fact a police officer on a bicycle is much more approachable than one in a car.

If the department has enough manpower on a daily basis, and the weather is decent, local residents can expect to see the officers on bicycles soon.

The downfall, in addition to traditional safety concerns effecting all officers, is bicycle patrol officers have to be very aware of their surroundings, Brown said.

Bicycle patrol officers also have a limited amount of equipment they can carry as compared to officers in cars. It means fewer tools and resources are available to the bicycle patrol officer to handle a variety of situations.

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