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UB course teaches law enforcement on two wheels

Police officer Tighe learns how to negotiate a curb. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi


Published June 12, 2014

“Police departments can use bicycles to establish a highly effective mobile patrol force that is more accessible to the community and puts police officers in places cars can’t travel.”
Chris Bartolomei, assistant chief
UB Police Department

The North Campus once again has become the gathering point of police officers on bicycles as the university hosts the Western New York Police Bike Training Program for area law enforcement.

The training, which began Monday and continues through Friday, instructs police officers in safe, effective skills that include shooting their weapons, tackling suspects, handcuffing prisoners and traversing obstacles, all while riding bicycles.

The training program conducted by UB police officers comes at a time when law enforcement agencies are taking advantage of bicycles to supplement more traditional ways to patrol and catch criminals, according to Chris J. Bartolomei, UB assistant chief of police who has organized the training since UB began offering the program in 2003.

“We have definitely seen a marked increase in the number of local agencies maintaining bike patrols since we began to offer this training,” says Bartolomei. “Police departments can use bicycles to establish a highly effective mobile patrol force that is more accessible to the community and puts police officers in places cars can’t travel.”

Hundreds of officers — from federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Border Patrol to local law enforcement agencies such as state troopers and sheriff’s deputies, along with SUNY police officers — have graduated from the 40-hour Police Bike Patrol Course. The training course is designed to teach officers the skills needed to perform a wide range of police duties while riding a bicycle.

“A few officers who enroll in the course are avid cyclists off duty, but many haven’t ridden much since they were kids,” says Bartolomei. “We do our best to keep the course both challenging and fun — which has made it very popular with the local officers. Enrollment often exceeds our capacity and we are forced to turn people away each year.

“By continuing to host the bike patrol course,” he says, “UB police have made a positive impact on the use of bike patrols in Western New York while reinforcing our positive working relationships with other local law enforcement agencies.”

The training sessions teach officers such unique skills as riding a bike in crowded areas and confined spaces, traversing urban obstacles like curbs and stairs, and performing high-speed dismounts and suspect-apprehension techniques.

The course also includes a 30-mile group ride from the South Campus through different parts the city, from parks and bike paths to streets congested with vehicular traffic. Officers report to an outdoor firing range on the final day, where they compete for the fastest time through an obstacle course that combines cycling skills with shooting techniques.

Officer David Bowersox of the Town of Orchard Park Police is taking the UB course with an Orchard Park colleague. The Orchard Park department plans to start its own bicycle patrol, building on the expertise of these two trained officers. Bowersox says the department hopes to add two more officers next year.

“The course has been very useful,” says Bowersox. “It teaches a lot of practical experience we’ll need on the street. The skills course was especially useful. It teaches how to go up curves, and up and down stairs. It just builds confidence in riders who might not be as strong as others to know they can actually do a good job.”