Campus police are switching to bikes this semester in order to go green and be seen.
With eight University Police Department officers already certified under Sgt. Samuel Nelsen, at least two more will be sent into training sometime during summer 2013.
“It is our long term goal to have every officer in the department to be bike-patrol certified,” Nelsen said. Extensive training involves 32-40 hours of class instruction, with the officers spending around eight hours a day in the classroom for four days straight. Classes are divided up between presentations and hands-on bike training.
“The class starts with the basics, like bike nomenclature and proper adjustments, and goes all the way through advanced riding techniques,” Nelsen said. “Officers must pass a written test, and several riding drills throughout the week to become certified.”
The use of mountain bikes will allow UPD officers to navigate through more exclusive parts of campus where previous patrol vehicles were limited. Such locations also include public affairs or sporting events where a bulky vehicle could deem a major distraction and make it difficult to survey the area. The bikes are swift and compact, two elements that make all the difference when patrolling campus.
UPD officers will also be much more approachable and available to students and faculty around campus because the bikes remove the barriers that cars tend to create. “We have the opportunity to be more visible during busy times, and can often respond to calls quicker on bikes than we can in cars,” Nelsen said.
The bikes give officers the opportunity to hold more personal relationships with the public, ones that aren’t blockaded by metal doors and headlights.
Emily Thomas, a native studies major and a senior at USD, said she agrees the bikes will make officers more attainable to the student body and give the public a renewed feeling of safety.
“Seeing them on bikes patrolling the campus would make me feel a lot safer, especially at night,” Thomas said. “I would take them more seriously if I felt like they could help me at a moment’s notice.”
In addition to more stomping grounds, the bikes are also reducing the discharge of gasoline into the air. USD is a bike-friendly campus, and now, UPD officers have the chance to re-develop their own footprint, trading in fuel-efficient cars for bikes. The department still uses vehicles on occasion, but even the cars have fashioned a greener look. A Polaris utility vehicle, an electric car that does not utilize fuel, has also been added to the mix. The bikes will aid to the campus’s overall green scene.
Anthony Rudell, a sophomore education major, said he fully supports the use of bikes in order to be more green.
“I personally don’t use a bike, but I also don’t use my car very often,” Rudell said. “Walking or biking around campus and Vermillion makes much more sense to me because you’re helping the environment and getting some exercise, too.”
In contrast, the weather serves as a problem from time to time, primarily during winter months.
“Riding in the rain is never fun, and we can’t ride during winter months for obvious reasons,” Nelsen said. “In addition, we don’t require them to ride during extreme heat.” With winter just around the corner, snow will likely constitute an issue for biking.
Students can expect the same policies and commitment from the UPD even though they are switching to bikes. Students can plan to see the officers around campus more often, but aside from being more proactive and accessible by the public, the department has not made any major changes to the way it operates.
“Even though we are on the bikes and wearing different uniforms, we are still police officers,” Nelsen said. “Our officers are certified by the state and have full powers of detention and arrest. That being said, we enjoy talking to people, so feel free to flag us down and chat for a while.”