Four UT Police Department officers spent last week jumping curbs, dodging rocks, and riding down stairs on bicycles—all in the name of service to the Volunteer community.
The exercises were part of the curriculum to become a certified bicycle officer through the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T) Commission. The officers will patrol the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, campus on two wheels, making them even more approachable to students, said Corporal John Platt, who taught the weeklong school.
“It’s easier to flag down an officer on a bike than in a vehicle,” he said. “They will see us in places they normally don’t see officers because the bike can go anywhere.”
Having bicycle officers expands UTPD’s capacity to connect with students on issues that concern them like bicycle thefts on campus, said Officer Rozzie Bomar.
“A lot of the time I feel like we preach to the students, ‘Lock your bike, check your bike,’ but they just see us in vehicles,” she said. “Now when we’re saying these things, we can actually show them the appropriate way to lock their bike.”
Bomar took the 40-hour course along with Officers Greg Bailey, Chris Colby, and Nick Podgorny. The officers learned how to secure bicycles, check the tires, handle emergency stops, and control large crowds in certain situations. They performed numerous maneuvers including box drills and slalom—weaving in and out of cones. Additionally, the group completed long rides of 10-plus miles and nighttime rides to prepare for various scenarios. The officers then completed skills and written tests.
When on bicycle duty, the officers will wear a bike uniform—a high-visibility yellow and black polo shirt with their full duty belt and body armor vest. At points during their shift, they may alternate between a bicycle and a patrol car.
Bicycle patrol will allow UTPD officers to be more mobile and nimble, especially in situations like game day crowds and move-in where vehicle traffic is restricted, and will be especially useful after the eventual expansion of Johnson-Ward Pedestrian Walkway and other projects on campus that will limit movement of vehicles, Bomar said.
“This gives us a different way to get to different places,” she said. “Professionally, I’m all about more tools in my tool box.”
Platt, the instructor, noted that using bicycle officers will bring a financial benefit to UTPD.
“Bikes don’t use any gas and they’re environmentally friendly,” he said.
Ultimately, Platt said, the UTPD bicycle officers will be able to share their knowledge with peers and offer the bike school to train other law enforcement personnel and agencies in the state.