Saturday, April 04, 2015

436th SFS pedals to strengthen community relations

by Roland Balik
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

4/4/2015 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Being visible day or night and establishing one-on-one relationships within the Team Dover community is the goal of the 436th Security Forces Squadron here, who are trained and certified members of the newly-formed police bike patrol pedaling around both the installation and base housing areas.

The use of bicycle or "bike" patrols by police officers dates back to the mid-1800s in order to cut down crime, allowing police officers to cover more area then they can on foot, and most importantly, making a presence in the community by being more approachable.

"Bicycle patrolling is important on a couple fronts," said Lt. Col. Joel Briske, 436th Security Forces Squadron commander. "The most important is that it removes the patrol car and all of its equipment from the officer which makes interaction between the officer and the community they serve more likely."

The use of specially equipped mountain bikes will enable bike patrol members to go places that a patrol car cannot go.

"Police officers will be able to patrol through easements, around the perimeter of housing and be more likely to come into contact with our residents who are out enjoying the green areas of our community," said Briske. "Having that freedom of movement will also provide a better police posture to discourage unwanted behaviors."

Beyond the initial start-up costs, the use of bike patrols has tangible financial and health rewards that accompany using pedal power.

"This initiative has many positive aspects as it will save fossil fuels as our Defenders are using their bicycles to get around instead of driving their assigned police vehicles, this will also reduce our overall carbon footprint which is in-line with Air Force initiatives to use alternative fuels," said Briske. "It also gives the patrolmen a good aerobic workout while on duty helping them to maintain their fitness level."

Seven hand-picked members of the 436th SFS received specialized police mountain bike training March 16-19, 2015, by two International Police Mountain Bike Association certified instructors from the Ocean City (Maryland) Police Department bike patrol unit.

"I was excited to be selected by my squadron for bike patrol," said Senior Airman Angela Gaul, 436th SFS response force leader. "I enjoy new challenges and trying new things, and this is a great opportunity to reach the community in a new way."

Bike patrol members will wear a highly-visible yellow shirt with "police" stenciled on the back, blue shorts, ride a mountain bike equipped with police lights and saddle bags with "police" stenciled on them.

"Talk about a morale booster. How would you like to be told that you will now have to wear shorts and a polo shirt to work instead of your ABUs?" said Briske.

Corporals Allen Hawk and Richard Wawrzeniak, of the OCPD, instructed SFS bike patrol members on how to ride safely day or night, bike maintenance, bike pursuit, slow-speed and confined space maneuvering skills among crowds and administered a 50-question written test on the last day.

"There are only two main [bike] tricks to accomplish 90 percent of what we do in the course," said Wawrzeniak. "If they can get those two main tricks down right from the very beginning, everything else becomes easy."

The two tricks are slow-speed riding by continuous pedaling while using the rear brake to maintain balance and the technique of lofting the front wheel or "popping a wheelie" to ascend or descend to and from different surface levels.

Training opportunities between civilian and military law enforcement agencies add strength to existing relationships and sharing knowledge between the two will benefit the Dover AFB community as a whole.

"I am grateful for the Delmarva Chief of Police community that emphasizes working together for a common goal," said Briske. "I am also proud of the men and women of the 436th Security Forces Squadron as they are always seeking new opportunities to improve our processes and be relevant to the wing and our community."

Bike patrols on the industrial side of the base and the family housing areas will begin soon, weather permitting.