The West Jefferson Police Department has a new tool to patrol the village, survey large public events and maintain a high, personal profile with area residents.
Thanks to a specialized statewide training session, officers Josh Jacob and Mallory Wise are now patrolling the streets, alleys and parks of the village on bicycles.
The pair took part in the police bike training class held June 2-6 at Ohio Wesleyan University. The Delaware Police Department and the International Police Mountain Bike Association conducted the classes. The five day rigorous training prepared the duo to be effective as police officers board bicycles instead of riding in cruisers, Jacob said.
“We learned a lot at the school,” Jacob said. “We learned to properly dismount from a bike, how to fall from a bike, how to ride in crowds really slow and ride down steps.”
“It really helped me with my bike skills,” Wise said. “It’s a lot different than riding a bike for fun. I also learned the importance of wearing a helmet on a bike.”
The recent July 4 Streetfest was the first public event where the skills could be utilized in a large crowd. The officers assisted residents and kept an eye out for trouble.
“It was nice,” Wise said. “We were able to assist quickly and get to places quickly. We worked July 4 and we could help people find additional parking and get through the large crowds during the fireworks.”
The duo works different shifts. Jacob takes first shift and Wise takes second.
“I patrolled Converse Park the other day and I was able to get to places we can’t even see in a car,” Jacob said.
Besides being flexible, the bike patrol also allows officers to develop a close-up relationship with residents.
“We get to talk with people,” Jacob said. “We get a lot of compliments from people who didn’t know we had a bike patrol.”
“You also see and hear a lot more on a bike than in a cruiser,” Wise added. “I also think it builds a positive relationship with the kids here out on their bikes. I even had a kid challenge me to a race on his bike.”
The elements can also be a challenge for officers biking in black uniforms and vests. They drink plenty of fluids while on patrol.
Police chief Terry Ward said officers on bikes have been a big help with surveillance and public relations.
“It makes them highly visible and it is easy for them to get around in highly congested areas,” Ward said. “We get a lot of good comments from the community about them. It makes the public feel the officers are more approachable.”