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September 23, 2011

News

Police implement mountain bike unit
to improve visibility, customer interaction

By Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff

Fort McCoy’s Police Department is taking to the streets in a newly formed mountain bike unit to support community policing efforts.
PHOTO: Fort McCoy Police Officers Matt Styba (left) and Victoria Smith introduce the mountain bike unit concept to attendees at Fort McCoy’s Day for Kids event Sept. 17. Photo by Capt. Rick Jackson
Fort McCoy Police Officers Matt Styba (left) and Victoria Smith introduce the mountain bike unit concept to attendees at Fort McCoy’s Day for Kids event Sept. 17. (Photo by Capt. Rick Jackson)

Fort McCoy Chief of Police Rob Stapel said the unit will be used to support special events and special locations at Fort McCoy. The first event the bicyclists supported was the Fort McCoy Day for Kids Sept. 17.

“The use of the bicycles intersects with community-oriented policing models,” Stapel said. “One of the added benefits of using the bicycles is it takes officers out of their vehicles and makes them more accessible to customers.”

The premise is similar to officers walking a beat during their duty time. Stapel said officers who walked their beat knew everyone’s name in the area and the customers they served felt the officers were approachable and ready to listen to their concerns.

When officers moved to perform their rounds in vehicles, they became enclosed in their vehicles and removed from the customers they served, he said. The 10-speed mountain bikes and the special uniforms the officers wear when they’re riding the bikes also are a good public relations tool to connect with their customers, such as the youth during the Fort McCoy Day for Kids event. Stapel said the bike unit will be used to support activities in the cantonment area, such as the Army Concert Tour, battalion runs, etc. The bikes also can be used to travel between buildings.

“Using the bicycles is much quieter than using vehicles so we won’t cause as much disturbance,” he said. “The bicycles are very maneuverable so we can get into some spots much easier than we could with vehicles and not interrupt or disturb the activities as much as we did with vehicles.”

The mountain bikes also can be used off road so they would be useful in supporting activities at the Pine View Campground camping sites, for example. Stapel said one of the few drawbacks of using the mountain bikes is it likely won’t be practical to use the bikes during inclement or winter weather.

Forming the mountain bike unit was the culmination of a three-year effort, he said. The bikes were obtained by a former police chief. Next, the department obtained uniforms and safety gear for the personnel in the unit.

The final step was to identify personnel to be part of the unit and arrange the training.

“I wanted to find the right officers for the unit — people who demonstrated interest in doing this and were enthusiastic to do this,” Stapel said. “I felt that would give us the best results.”

McCoy arranged to have a certified trainer come to the installation to give a two-day course in August. Seven officers from Fort McCoy participated in the training. Two officers from the Onalaska Police Department also participated when the training was opened up to surrounding communities.

The comprehensive training covered safety aspects of the bikes and maintenance, including changing tires, if necessary, he said.

The bike unit also will help save maintenance costs and support a Department of the Army directive to reduce fleet operating costs, Stapel said.

“In addition to saving money there’s also the health benefits the officers will get from using the bikes,” he said.

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