West Des Moines Police Department Relaunches Bike Patrol Program
The West Des Moines Police Department returned to the city’s trails and parks by bike last year after a brief hiatus from the two-wheeled patrol program.
The unit was established in 1999 and active for several years, but was dormant recently until its rebirth in 2020, according to Sgt. Jason Bryan. Under the Ministry’s Special Operations Unit, bicycle officers do not respond to calls for service. Instead, they patrol trails, parks, and large shopping sites like downtown Jordan Creek or Valley Junction.
Officers are also assigned to ride bikes during special events, including the July 4th activities at Raccoon River Park and the Mayor’s annual ride and run. The program is not operational in winter when weather conditions make driving difficult.
Bryan, who runs the program, said the duties of bike officers go far beyond patrolling – they also seek to promote safe practices for young cyclists.
“When I was riding, I would meet kids on the trails who didn’t have helmets,” he said. “I didn’t know if it was because the parents just didn’t think they needed it or couldn’t afford it.”
Bryan, who represents the West Des Moines Police Department on the city’s Bicycle Advisory Board, partnered with another board member, West Des Moines Parks Director David Sadler, to distribute helmets.
They got a $ 1,000 grant for a trailer that can be attached to officers’ bikes and can accommodate new helmets in four sizes. If they spot a child without a helmet, they can equip them with one directly on site. Helmets are provided by the Emergency Medical Services Department.
Bryan said they have distributed a dozen helmets so far and hope to purchase a second trailer soon.
“We have a lot of trail users. Anytime we can get more of our trail users to use helmets, that’s a good thing,” Sadler said.
To join the bike patrol, officers apply for a position in the Special Operations Unit and must complete 32 hours of training. All program officers then receive annual refresher training of four hours. During the training, officers learn how to use bicycles safely and overcome obstacles.
It’s popular among the officers, Bryan said, because it interrupts their day and allows them to have fun.
“This allows officers to patrol differently and therefore have more opportunities to interact with citizens,” he said. “Some of the bike officers are avid cyclists.”
Patrolling on two wheels allows access to areas that are difficult to reach by car, Bryan said. Bike officers climb steps or jump sidewalks, which is why they use mountain bikes with sturdy components. Officers are equipped with equipment bags containing additional inner tubes, basic first aid kits, bicycle tools and other equipment. Fully equipped, each bike costs around $ 800.
Several other central Iowa police departments, including Urbandale and Clive, have bike patrol units with certified and trained officers. Like West Des Moines, they also promote bicycle safety and have in the past given out free helmets.
According to Clive’s website, bike patrols “can be used for stealth patrols in high crime areas or as a means of silent surveillance” and are “a great community policing tool, allowing the officer to get up close and personal. business owners. and residents. “