The Beckley Police Department is rolling out a new set of bike patrols in an effort to keep improving relations between the department and the community.
If you pay attention to the Uptown Beckley area, you just might see one of the officers cruising around and mingling with the public.
“It’s easy for a person to not have personal contact when you’re in a car,” Chief Lonnie Christian said. “It’s almost a barrier. When guys are on bikes, the bike becomes a talking point.”
It had been about 15 years since the BPD had bike patrols, Christian said. It just seemed like people didn’t see the benefits that the patrols bring, he added.
“The bike is very accessible, in more ways than one,” Christian said. “They can go down alleyways and on the Rails to Trails to interact with cyclists and walkers that frequent the area.
The addition of bike patrols is another mark of the department trying to be more proactive instead of reactive with the community, Christian said.
“You see people that you wouldn’t normally see,” he said. “You also approach people that you might have never talked to in the car. It’s about changing perspective. That’s where the bikes come in.
“It’s so easy to get focused on the next 911 call that you lose sight of the public around you. We’re trying to break the guys out of that tunnel vision.”
One of the officers who is on the bike patrol says he’s really enjoying the chance to be a part of the new patrols.
“The exercise is great,” Officer J.S. Stewart said. “People seem much more receptive to the bikes and bike uniforms than the regular uniform. People will talk to you for a half-hour now. The difference is amazing.”
“Just in the last couple of weeks, people come right up to you and talk about the bike or just ask how you’re doing and things like that,” Officer Jamie Blume added. “People have been really receptive to us. They don’t feel like they’re bothering the police anymore by talking to us.”
The bike patrols have their own set of unique challenges, but they’re more beneficial than bad, Blume said.
“You may not have access to the tools of a cruiser, but you have your radio,” he said. “Of course, if we arrest anyone, we’re not going to throw them on the back of the bike.
“Everything we could need is on our belt, though. Your response time is increased, but your mobility is increased too. It balances out.”
Blume said he hopes that people will get to know the officers on the bike and continue to talk to them, whether they’re in their cruiser or out on foot.
“It’s the same person driving the car that is driving that bike,” Blume said. “We just wish that the public would know that we’re always approachable and willing to talk and help.”
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