Sometime this past January 2019, while motoring through the Lakewood Towne Center, I spotted four uniformed Lakewood Police Officers on bicycle patrol. Based on my 20 plus years experience as a police officer chasing evildoers and criminals, I was immediately enthused by the sight of LPD officers stealthily moving through the 99 acres of the Lakewood Towne Center shopping complex in their creative effort to keep us shoppers and our cars safe from criminal attack.
The next day I contacted Chief Michael Zaro who referred me to Lieutenant Jeff Alwine, Sergeant John Frasier, and Sergeant Jeff Carroll in my quest to learn more about LPDs’ bike patrol unit.
Back in 2004 when the newly formed Lakewood Police Department (LPD) took over policing responsibility for The City of Lakewood from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department (PCSD), LPD continued the bike patrol established by PCSD.
Eventually, primarily because of a staffing shortage and a budget challenge, the bike patrol became inactive.
After recently completing Police Mountain Bicycle Training, Lieutenant Alwine approached Chief Zaro to explore reactivating Lakewood Police Department’s bike patrol.
While Chief Zaro was incredibly supportive, he was quick to point out he did not have any room in the 2018 budget for bike patrol. Additionally, it was too late to include bike patrol in the 2019 budget request.
Good cops are good problem solvers. While no one said it out loud, I can visualize cops thinking a paraphrase of an old saying. “We do not need any stinkin budget.”
Resourceful officers retrieved a few bikes left over from the old bike patrol unit. After scavenging parts from several bikes and installing them on the best bikes, they were able to cobble together enough bikes to form a police officer bike team.
The public’s positive reaction to bike patrol encouraged and supported an expansion of the LPD bike unit for uses particularly suitable for protecting those who reside, visit, and do business inside the City of Lakewood.
LPD’s Bike Patrol expansion came naturally because of some intense crime problem issues inside the city.
No bike officer is taken out of patrol or loses his or her assigned patrol car and equipment because Bike Patrol is not a full-time assignment. Bike Patrol is classified as an extra-duty assignment used for special projects, crime suppression emphasis, and for public occasions. Most hard working cops have at least one, if not more, extra duty assignments.
An excellent example of a bike patrol application involves our last Black Friday. Black Friday is a big day for shoppers, and it is a big day for criminals. The bike patrol officers started at 6:00a, which was before daylight in advance of any store opening for business. The bike officers patrolled on their bikes until 4:00p covering 22 miles with most of the miles inside the Lakewood Towne Center grounds. Part B of the crime suppression plan for Black Friday included using a marked patrol car for the balance of the Lakewood Towne Center shopping hours following the end of the bike patrol shift.
Most thinking criminals, after spotting a high profile bike patrol team, would think twice before pulling any of their typical shenanigans, knowing bike officers can move quickly and quietly with the possibility of catching criminals acting out in a negative deportment manner (stealing, robbing, and assaulting).
The retail store, Old Navy, reported that the mere presence of the LPD Bike Patrol saved them from suffering a $4,000 shoplifting loss. A criminal shoplifting crew had pushed a series of shopping carts up near the front door as they got ready to make a break for it, but when they saw the LPD Bike Patrol officer ride past, they abandoned the shopping carts leaving the store empty-handed.
During Black Friday not one call reporting a shop-lift in the Towne Center was made to 911. It gets better. Not one request was made to 911 reporting a car prowl either.
To serve on LPD Bike Patrol, each officer must complete a rigorous police bike operations course sponsored by the International Police Mountain Bike Association.
Bike Patrol Officers are expected to ride a minimum of 60 hours per year, plus the time it takes to update training. The requirement is meant to promote efficiency related to staffing and equipment. Additionally, the minimum time required helps to keep the officers healthy, in proper physical shape, and proficient while serving in their special duty assignment. Officers peddling for public safety can expect to ride 12 – 15 miles around the city per shift.
The first night on bike patrol, ten bikes, most of whom started at the Lakewood Police Station, rode 7 – 12 miles to visit Lakewood citizens during the various National Night Out events held August 2018 with the temperature in the 80s.
The officers who volunteered to visit National Night Out sites in the Tillicum neighborhood, transported their bikes down the I-5 Freeway to Tillicum using special bike rack equipment installed on their patrol cars.
Officers riding bicycles generate an unexpected benefit in terms of public relations. Officers on bikes seem more approachable when compared to officers locked inside a patrol car, essentially wrapped in steel. Bikes can travel where cars cannot.
Being more approachable means more opportunity for police and public conversations which can include an exchange of information related to criminal activity or a session of Q & A between the public and police related to questions the public wishes to ask if given a chance. LPD Bike Patrol actually promotes community interaction with police. It is definitely a form of community policing.
On top of all that, bike patrol is fun for the officers and the public, especially for kids. Officers often distribute fun stickers to kids while riding. Officers have found that when they can present themselves to the public with no barrier, the interaction is totally different when compared to that of standard patrol while ensconced inside a patrol car.
Where was LPD Bike Patrol on Halloween Night? Out having fun with and keeping kids safe.
LPD Bike Patrol Officers and kids display two kinds of costumes; kids in Halloween costumes and bike patrol officers in police costumes.
Bike patrols roam around silently in areas such as The Lakewood Towne Center, schools, and neighborhoods. The bike patrol was riding during the Lakewood Christmas Parade and Tree lighting.
Look for bike patrol in July when Lakewood celebrates SummerFEST.
In the absence of any special events, bike patrols will also be conducted with a goal of merely sneaking up on criminals as they commit an arrest-able crime.
The old bike inventory was made up of old Trek bikes and Giant bikes. It certainly would be nice to replace the old existing bikes with some new bikes.
Recently, a local business, wishing to support the LPD Bike Patrol, donated $6,000 worth of new bikes and bike equipment to make it possible for the unit to acquire four new bicycles and the equipment required to outfit the bikes for police duty.
Lieutenant Alwine reported to me that based on current pricing, it takes about $2,000 to purchase and outfit a police bicycle. If any citizen, business, organization, club, or church would enjoy helping our Lakewood Police Bike Patrol, which suffers from a zero dollar budget, please contact Lieutenant Jeff Alwine at 253-830-5000 to arrange a most effective and lawful donation.
Members of the Lakewood City Council, as shown in the photo below, seem enthused about Lakewood Bike Patrol too.
WARNING TO CRIMINALS: In Lakewood, if you do a crime, Lakewood Bike Patrol is there for you, to make sure you do time.