REJUVINATED BIKE PATROL: URI Police Officer Paul Hanrahan, left, of North Kingstown, who oversees the URI program and provides basic maintenance for the bikes, joins Officer Raul Douglas, as part of a rejuvenated bike patrol program at URI. While Hanrahan has ridden and will continue to ride bicycles on patrol, he also rides the three-wheeled, electric vehicle shown here. URI photo by Nora Lewis.
Bicycles will be more prominent on the University of Rhode Island’s Kingston Campus this fall and several of the folks riding them will be in uniform.
As part of URI Police Maj. Michael Jagoda’s plan to enhance URI’s community policing efforts, seven officers of the 30-member department were recently certified by the International Police Mountain Bike Association, considered the gold standard for public safety cycling in this country and beyond. Four officers were certified prior to Jagoda’s hiring in May.
All 11 officers completed the four-day, 40-hour certification program, with seven completing the training during the summer at the Bristol Police Department. Wearing helmets while on patrol, the officers ride 21-speed Trek mountain bikes outfitted with front and rear lights. They wear different bike uniforms depending on the season. URI Police cruisers have also been equipped with bike racks so an officer can park them in a key area, and then use a bike to move about the crowd.
Police placed two bicycles in the renovated Barlow Hall police substation in the heart of the Freshman Village.
Jagoda, who oversaw bike patrols at major University of Connecticut sports and entertainment events, such as football games and Spring Weekend, when he was with the Connecticut State Police, said bicycles allow officers to be accessible to the public and they provide police with a quick and effective way to monitor large crowds.
URI has had bike patrols in the past, but Jagoda wants to see them become an integral part of the campus police operation.
“When you are sitting in a cruiser you are not as engaged,” Jagoda said. “We want students and other community members to feel comfortable approaching us. I can see us using bike patrols at URI football games or in the residential areas when large groups gather. We will be at the busy spots on campus.”
Officer Paul Hanrahan oversees the program and provides basic maintenance for the bikes. While Hanrahan has ridden and will continue to ride bicycles on patrol, he also rides a three-wheeled, electric vehicle.
“Going up and down the (Kingston) hill several times a day on a bicycle can be a little taxing for an older member of the force,” Hanrahan joked. “I like being on a bike, but we used this vehicle during commencement and it was very effective.”
The North Kingstown resident added, “You have a much greater field of vision on a bicycle and the three-wheeled unit, and so we easily see potential challenges.”
With commencement having so many venues spread throughout the 1,200-acre Kingston Campus, the electric tricycle makes it very easy to get directly from one venue to another without having to get in a cruiser, park it and then walk to the venue. And like the bicycles, it makes it easy for people to stop and ask for directions or seek help when they have a problem, Hanrahan said.
“Since we follow all of the rules of the road, including the use of hand signals and riding in the proper direction, we can be role models for other cyclists and motorists as well,” Jagoda said.
Raul Douglas, the newest member of the force who recently graduated from the Rhode Island Municipal Police Training Academy, said the additional bike training provided by the international agency covered all phases of police work while using a bike.
“We rode over and around obstacles, including down stairs,” Douglas said. “We learned how to maneuver in tight spaces by cycling in 10-foot, 9-foot and 8-foot boxes. We rode down five flights of stairs.”
The Warwick resident also demonstrated how bike patrol officers could use a bike to shield themselves when questioning a suspect. “The bike is always placed between the suspect and the officer to form a barrier between the two,” Douglas said.
“In the future I can only see us expanding this program,” Jagoda said. We know the benefits of one-on-one engagement. The bike patrols will help students see us as accessible and easy to approach. Maybe we can even exchange cycling tips.”
In addition to Hanrahan and Douglas, the following members of the URI Police force have been certified by the International Police Mountain Bike Association: Sgt. Erica Vieira and Officers Shawn Richards, Wayne Young, Salvatore Bugge, Paul Gentile, Michael McCabe, Austin Webb, Nicholas DeTroia and Stephen Bannister.
The International Police Mountain Bike Association is the premier training organization for public safety cyclists. Since its founding in 1992, it has trained tens of thousands of public safety professionals in safe and effective police, emergency medical services, and security bicycle operations. The association maintains a network of instructors who deliver the flagship Police, EMS, and Security Cyclist Courses, and offers introductory, intermediate, and advanced training opportunities at the annual conference. The first conference was held in 1991 and is renowned for its innovative training programs, experienced instructors, networking opportunities and bike patrol product exhibition.