Police officers learn safety first at bicycle certification classes

bmilazzo@centredaily.comMay 16, 2014 

Sgt. Shawn Pelletier traveled from Milford, N.H., to the Centre Region to participate in a weeklong basic police cycling course.

He was one of 11 law enforcement officials this week who underwent a physical exam, safety course and final written test, and traveled by bike more than 30 miles around the county to earn certification through the International Police Mountain Bike Association.

Penn State police hosted the 40-hour course with help from State College police to certify bicycle patrol officers for duty.

But Penn State police Lt. Matt Cover said it was only coincidental that the classes were held during National Bike Month.

The course was the first for Cover and State College police Sgt. Chad Hamilton, who were the primary instructors.

Cover said he approached his department chief in February 2013 with the idea to host basic bike classes for law enforcement.

“We quickly realized we could use our resources better,” he said. “We used to host classes at Penn State and send the team to get trained, but it was getting too expensive to put our officers through.”

Cover’s proposal was for the department to pay for him to take a class to be an instructor so he could train campus police for free and offer classes to other law enforcement officials. This saved the department on the cost of sending multiple officers to a course hosted by another department.

Hamilton did the same thing and, in a collaborative effort, partnered with Cover to hold the courses at venues in the region.

Together they went through a basic law enforcement bicycle training class in Indianapolis last August, and the pair became certified through the IPMBA.

Among the 11 participants, three were State College police, three were campus police, and one each was from Altoona, Ferguson Township, Tyrone and Youngsville, with Pelletier from New Hampshire.

The Penn State-State College police bicycle training courses were advertised on the IPMBA website that was open to all law enforcement, Cover said.

From Monday to Friday, the duo instructed bike patrol officers on basic patrol equipment, bike safety and physical courses, nutrition and the importance of bike patrol to the community.

One of the more unique lessons was showing officers how to ride up and down stairs, which Cover said becomes “easy” when knowing how to properly ride.

But most important was stressing safety.

“As police, we always preach safety first and being aware of surroundings, and that’s most always our main mission,” Cover said.

Hamilton said police bike units are vital to the area, especially on campus and downtown State College where it’s most congested.

“We can get to places a patrol vehicle can’t,” he said. “Oftentimes, it’s a lot more accessible for us to get to a scene and be out in the public.”

“There is a perception that police are unapproachable, but bike patrol is a little different because we’re more visible in the community,” Cover said.

In Centre County, bike patrol season lasts from April to October, but Cover said many officers use their bikes throughout the year when the weather is nice.

Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.

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