A Lesson in Swift Justice

Wheeling police during the past two weeks have been disproving an old adage, noting that riding a bike in the line of duty is not “as easy as riding a bike.”

About 12 officers have been training to be certified as police cyclists during classes sanctioned through the International Police Mountain Bike Association. The second of two five-day, 40-hour training classes concludes today.

Lt. Phil Redford during the previous two weeks has been training officers in different locations throughout the city and county, as well as in the classroom.

On Tuesday, officers were battling the humidity in Warwood, navigating tight tracks outlined by orange cones. Redford said the cramped spaces prepare officers to ride through a crowd at events like the annual Italian Festival at Heritage Port. It also hones their slow-speed balance skills while inching along the pavement.

Deputy Chief Mike Vankirk said maintaining balance while riding the bike slowly was the most difficult aspect of training. A regular bike rider on weekends, Vankirk pointed out that he has never tried to ride at such a slow pace.

One snaking track was littered with debris that an officer may encounter in the field, forcing them to decide whether to avoid or ride over it. They also passed each other in opposite directions in lanes that left little elbow room. Officers learned how to ride down and up steps at Heritage Port on Wednesday.

Redford and his fellow officers were incorporating their weapons into their training Thursday while at the firearms range in Dallas Pike. They learned how to engage a suspect from the bike, as well as various firing positions.

Officers also learned proper falling techniques, which they unintentionally put into practice Tuesday while drawing laughs from their colleagues.

In-class instruction includes bike maintenance and traffic laws applying to riders, as well as officer nutrition, Redford said.

Redford said officers on bikes have their advantages, such as difficulty being detected by suspects and being able to navigate alleys and side streets not easily accessed by a police cruiser.

Ten years ago, about 80 percent of the police department was certified, Redford said. That number has since dropped to about half of the department, and now the younger officers are being encouraged to become certified.

Bike officers are typically on patrol during the warmer months in areas with a higher rate of street crime, such as East and Center Wheeling, as well as downtown and Wheeling Island.