In a major initiative to strengthen law enforcement/civilian relations, the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall police department has taken to the streets, sidewalks and hills with a more community-friendly mode of transportation.
Since the beginning of April, a bicycle patrol squad consisting of a half dozen law enforcement cyclists have made a large effort and larger strides in the joint base department's community policing endeavor. Whether as a part of crowd control at an Independence Day celebration on Whipple Field or providing directions to tourists inside Arlington National Cemetery, the officers on two wheels are bridging the gap between citizens and the police department.
“The main thing here is COPS – community-orientated policing,” said JBM-HH Directorate of Emergency Services Provost Sergeant Master Sgt. Jason Hazzard. “We want to get out there and be seen by the public. That was the intent of the program. Other installations have bike patrols. With this installation being so small, you actually get more out of your bike patrol, and that's beneficial for the man-hours you are spending because the patrols can see more things and hear more things.”
The force consists of four Department of the Army civilian police officers and two Soldiers from the 289th MP Company — Pfc. Mike Hughes and Spc. Michael Begody. The jurisdiction traveled is throughout the base toward the Navy Annex and the multi-acres of Arlington National Cemetery. Army veteran and police officer William Sanders has personally seen the bicycle patrol in action as a bike cop in Hawaii, and he has witnessed the positive results on JBM-HH.
“What this [type of policing] does is it gets you closer to the community,” Sanders said. “People view bike cops differently than they view [police] in a patrol car. You're more approachable because you are out there. They can see a person. They just don't see a head floating around in a car. When they see a head in a car, people say 'that's just a MP'; when they see a bike cop, you get totally different responses from people.”
The rolling stock of two-wheeled vehicles includes three new law enforcement bikes, which will become the bike of choice for the joint base police department. While the bike squad appeals to a community-friendly atmosphere and concentrates their patrol efforts in housing areas and highly-populated areas of the joint base including Fort McNair, a fleet of bicyclists can cruise from opposite corners of JBM-HH in minutes.
“It is a lot quicker especially if you know short cuts on the installation,” Begody said. “Knowing the shortcuts can provide maybe two vital minutes [in an emergency]. Hughes and I just had a call where we were working a TCP [traffic control point on the Fort Myer side] and we got to the Henderson Hall side in less than two minutes.”
The law enforcement bicycle is built with higher-end components like disc brakes and tougher suspensions. The eight-speed bike civilian police officer Ryan Delma rides can set an impressive pace.
“You can really crank it on the bike — except for the hills,” said Delma. “You can get it going as fast as a vehicle would safely drive on base. If you really need to get going, you can get it up to 25 miles per hour on flat ground.”
Summer is a prime opportunity for the six-man JBM-HH Police Department bicycle team to be high profile. The patrol receives that high visibility when it expands into ANC to assist with medical calls and nearly every tourist's request – directions.
“Usually, we'd be at the visitor's center interacting with the public, and we'll get calls for medical assistance [in the cemetery],” said Begody. “ANC is a pretty big area, but as bike patrol officers, we know the hills and the areas and responding [to calls] is easy.”
But as of Oct. 1, the change in seasons will shelf the patrol. Hazzard noted that continued mild winters and the availability of winter bicycle gear could make the patrol operational year-round. Whether late spring, early autumn or the possibility of mid-January, the bike patrol's message is clear.
“We want to get out of the patrol car and let people know we're here to help,” Hazzard said.
Additional members of the bike squad are officers Henry McWilliams and David Wilson.