The City of Warren Police Department has a special operations unit, consisting of three certified uniformed officers mounted on mountain bikes.
Sgt. Brandon Deppen, who has been a member of the patrol for three years, said, “Our focus is around special events like the Fourth of July Parade and fireworks, and our response time is faster than patrol cars or foot patrols. Another advantage is stealth, as people don’t expect to see police on bicycles.”
Bike patrols are swift and agile in areas where traffic snarls and crowds would delay motorized units.
He also said that officers on bikes are more approachable, especially by children who “have lots of questions,” which helps build a rapport between citizens and police officers.
Deppen said the officers become certified through a four-day course held by the International Police Mountain Bike Association. His participation in the course took place three years ago at Gannon University in Erie. He added that the department uses mountain bikes rather than racing bikes because of the increased inherent strength.
The course combines emergency vehicle operations for bike officers with patrol procedures, tactics, night operations, basic maintenance, and more. The officers are also trained on how to use the bicycles as defensive and offensive weapons.
It is designed to enable officers to concentrate on their duties, not their riding. The course is centered on skill development for braking, dynamic mounts and dismounts, obstacle avoidance, and slow speed and balance. Other topics include basic fitness and nutrition, clothing and personal protective equipment, patrol procedures and tactics, and equipment selection.
Deppen gave as an example a controlled braking is achieved by keeping the rider’s weight on the rear wheel, like the results from an anti-skid braking system in a car.
Other facets of the course include dynamic mounts and dismounts, curb and stair ascents and descents, obstacle avoidance and slow speed and balance drills. In addition to classroom training, he said there are hands-on certification tests, including in Deppen’s case, a 25-mile ride through the City of Erie and on Presque Isle.
Deppen noted that bike patrol officers can enforce traffic violations within the city by taking advantage of traffic lights and stop signs. One of the department’s bikes is outfitted with emergency lights and a siren.
The other two certified officers in the Warren Police Department are Jeff Dougherty and Amanda Kosterman.