LCSO to add bike patrol deputies in Berthoud
By Shelley Widhalm
The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office will send out six certified bicycle patrol deputies to ride the streets of Berthoud, but it likely won’t be until late spring.
Training was paused during the statewide stay-at-home order, though Deputy Steven Fay, co-coordinator of the bicycle patrol program for the Berthoud squad, is providing patrol in the interim. He and deputy Eric Schultz, who coordinates the program in Wellington, are training deputies on how to patrol on a bike and engage with the community at a higher level.
“We find it increases the opportunity to interact with the public, building community relations and talking to people,” Fay said. “We wanted to expand our community policing and interactions with the public.”
Two years ago, the Sheriff’s Office expanded the program by providing more training, upgrading equipment and bringing more deputies into the Berthoud and Wellington bike units.
Eleven deputies are now certified and 12 more are scheduled to complete training this spring. They will be assigned to cover Berthoud and Wellington, including six on the reserve unit, which assists with patrol and special events in both towns.
Their equipment includes 12 bikes, two of which are committed to Berthoud full time. Five new bikes were added this year, including the agency’s first electronic bike.
Fay and Schultz developed the training curriculum for the units based on a program of the International Police Mountain Bike Association, a nonprofit educational organization in Catonsville, Maryland. They began the training last year with three deputies, following the standards outlined in the program. The first class for this year’s training was conducted in early March, and two more classes will be conducted in late spring. The training is over two days and takes 20 hours.
“It’s a pretty rigorous course, putting in a lot of miles,” Fay said.
The training covers basic cycling, slow speed movements in crowds, and the handling of stairs and other physical obstacles, plus traffic laws for bicycles that includes sharing the road with vehicles.
Once training is completed, the deputies likely will work six to eight hours a week, an amount that will increase in the warmer weather. Staffing, however, will depend on call load and the availability of car patrols, since the bikes cannot carry all of the equipment required for full patrol. The bike and car patrols will work in a partner set up to carry out their duties.
“Being in a patrol car, sometimes you feel a little bit disconnected from the public. It’s harder to interact,” Fay said, adding that the speed of driving and the glass windows also present barriers.
Bike patrol is more personable than patrol from a vehicle, said Sgt. Jim Anderson of the Sheriff’s Office, who oversees the Berthoud squad.
“It’s so much easier for somebody to be on a bike meeting somebody on the street to stop and talk with them than when you’re driving a car,” Anderson said. “You’re out in the open. You can stop right there.”
Fay finds interactions to be easier when he is out on a bike in Berthoud’s neighborhoods and business districts, where he often gets waved down and people want to talk or ask questions. Though he is providing his standard patrol duties, he also can learn about local issues and hopefully come up with solutions. Plus, he can see and hear more of what is going on and have a heightened awareness of his environment, he said.
“You’re more in tune to what’s around you. You can be more proactive and intentional with what you’re doing,” Fay said.
At special events, the bike patrol can access places that a car cannot and has an easier time maneuvering through crowds and around any road closures, while still having a good response time, Fay said.
“We can direct things in the middle of the crowd, rather than being stuck on the periphery,” Fay said.
The patrol will be a benefit at events like Berthoud Day, Anderson said.
“You can’t get around too easy driving around festivities but on a bike you can,” Anderson said.
During the stay-at-home order, Fay and Schultz are providing bike patrol following the social distancing recommendations and are wearing face coverings. They also plan to provide safety education, such as a kids’ bike rodeo in late summer that will teach children about bike safety and bike law.
“We’ve gotten positive feedback from the community at this time. … They’ve been very appreciative of seeing us out,” Fay said. “That’s been one of our biggest focuses in this is to be more accessible and to have better interactions with the public.”
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