SEATTLE - We’ve all seen them at work during events like May Day, but now we’re getting a closer look at the work of the Seattle Police Department bicycle officers. The bike cops became a fixture in the department in the early 1990’s and their role has increased ever since. Right now there are about 75 full-time bike cops on the Seattle PD staff.
“The mobility of the bicycle and also the accessibility of the bicycle officer are really big so a lot of our narcotic enforcement and small crime enforcement happens with the bicycle officers out there,” Sergeant James Dyment said. “People feel far more comfortable coming up to us and asking for directions. A lot of us bicycle officers are part time travel guides and we also deal with a lot of petty crimes like thefts, drugs.”
Every officer who spends time on the bike has to undergo a week-long training course at the beginning and then annually take a skills and crowd management refresher course. Every year the bike cops work hundreds of protests and events in downtown Seattle.
“What we do are offer tools to the commanders and it gives them the ability to manage crowds fairly effective,” Dyment said. “The mobility of the officers on the bicycles really gets resources wherever they are needed in a timely manner and it stays ahead. It gives commanders the opportunity to make a decision on how to go ahead and manage those crowds.”
All of the bikes are built tough, able to drive over a lot of materials and still not get a flat tire. They keep each bike in their department for about 4-5 years before switching them out.
The Seattle Police Department has quickly become a leader nationally with their use of bikes as a crowd management tool and as a general patrol response. Their patrol response is especially effective during peak commute times.
“Anybody that’s driven through downtown Seattle on a weekday realizes that traffic if you’re trying to get around a city in a vehicle can be difficult whereas bicycles can respond there faster than vehicle born resources,” Dyment added.
Dyment pointed out that back in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s bicycle officers were a lot more popular before the invention of the motor vehicle. Now, however, they are making a comeback and Seattle PD is helping to lead that charge.