Fairfield officers on summer bike patrol
Bike Patrol may not be the largest unit within the Fairfield Police Department, but what the special unit lacks in size it makes up in spunk and versatility. All through summer Fairfield residents will see more officers riding black mountain bikes about town. The nine officers in the unit do everything from passing out parking tickets to patrolling hard-to-access areas such as the 170 acres of Lake Mohegan. “We do a lot of special events; anywhere there is going to be a large number of people,” says Officer George Buckmir who heads Fairfield’s bike patrol.
The unit is especially active during the last few weeks of school when students tend to hang out around town and during the city’s Halloween Safety Street. On the Fourth of July the unit handles almost every call that comes in on the beach, from medical to fireworks complaints, Buckmir says.
Buckmir, an officer with the department since 1999 and on a bike patrol since 2002, also supervises the DARE program, teaching Fairifeld youth about the dangers of drinking and driving. Bike patrol offers another means for the department to connect with the community and additional tactical support, Buckmir says.
The department’s specially fitted mountain bikes are stored on wall-mounted hooks. Each bike bears the number of the officer who is responsible for its upkeep. Three LED lights that can flash red, blue, and white are affixed to the handlebars. A battery pack, mounted in a water bottle holder provides the siren.
Police bikes have wider tires that are flat in the middle like a road bike, nubby on the sides like a mountain bike. These tires allow an officer to jump curbs and ride over potholes. Officers must be able to navigate driveways, and zip between cars and alleys. In short they might not go as fast as a car, but they need to go where patrol cars can’t.
And yes, bikes do pull cars over for speeding, running lights and distracted driving. “You just ride alongside the driver and knock on the window,” Buckmir says.
The International Police Bike Mountain Association certifies officers on bike patrol. Each officer must take and pass an intense 40-hour course, which includes balance techniques, bicycle maintenance, a long ride over difficult terrain. An obstacle course caps the class.
“You learn how to dismount quickly, throw your bike over a fence and get back on,” Buckmir said. “You learn everything. You learn how to take down a suspect in pursuit.”
Bicycle patrols may be relatively new in the United States. However, they actually date back to the turn of the previous century. Kent, England, started using bicycles in 1896.
The Seattle Police Department was the first department to have a mountain-bike unit, according to the 25-year-old Law Enforcement Bicycling Association. Today hundreds of police departments across the nation have a bike unit.
Officers like bikes because they are fairly quiet. That means they allow for a police presence without being obvious. People tend to feel more at ease approaching an officer on a bicycle rather than an officer in a patrol car. “The bike is kind of an icebreaker,” Buckmir says.
“I find that it provides a gentler feel to the community to have officers on bikes,” says Wendy Laken, a newcomer to town. “The big cars have their place. But I like seeing bikes zipping around.”