Observant Delaware residents may have noticed an uptick in police officers on bicycles this past week while dozens of trainees were in town for an International Police Mountain Bike Association training session hosted by Delaware police.
Delaware police officer Robert Hatcher said dozens of officers from all over the United States, and an instructor from Ontario, Canada, were in town to get their certifications to become bike officers.
Hatcher said the trainees have done classwork, firearms training, night riding training, endurance training, scenario training and slow-speed skills training in the week they’ve spent in Delaware. Hatcher said the police department has partnered with Ohio Wesleyan University to house the trainees for the week and use parts of the OWU campus for exercises.
“It’s about skills development,” Hatcher said Thursday. “We want to raise their skill ceiling so high that, even after they go home, that skill level will settle down to a good point.”
Hatcher said using OWU’s campus allows trainees to practice on streets without having to worry about traffic and it’s a big cost saver.
Hatcher said one of the biggest lessons is obstacle courses and riding slowly. Hatcher said it’s important to stay on the bike at all times but it can be difficult when slowed by crowds, like the ones at the Delaware County Fair.
Officers were also engaging in a number of scenarios Thursday and learning different ways to use the bike as more than a mode of transportation.
In one scenario, bike officers must chase down a fleeing suspect, who then turns and comes at them with a knife. Hatcher told officers to use the bike as a physical barrier to put some “precious space” between them and the knife-wielding assailant. The scenario ends after officers subdue the attacker, usually with lethal force. Hatcher said the exercise is a good way to remind officers to watch out for crossfire when they put the attacker between them and have to fire their weapons.
Other scenarios included conducting a traffic stop on a bike, dealing with a disorderly and uncooperative person loitering outside a residence, and a man going through a mental health crisis. Hatcher, and the other instructors, including Delaware bike officer Adrian Foust, gave trainees immediate feedback and advice on how to better handle the situations or how to better utilize their bikes.
The “suspects” in the scenarios were played by Delaware police officers and Delaware city attorney Darren Shulman, who played the knife-wielding attacker and wore a protective suit.
Hatcher said that being a bike officer is his passion and he fell in love with the idea of bringing bike training to Delaware more than a decade ago. Hatcher also served on the board of directors for the International Police Mountain Bike Association and successfully pitched the idea of hosting trainings and conferences in Delaware.
“It’s not just about busting bad guys,” Hatcher said. “It’s about being out in the community.”
Hatcher said the association will hold its 2017 annual conference in Delaware June 5-9. Hatcher said he’s excited about the upcoming event that will bring hundreds of officers to Delaware.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.