The Cleveland Police Department will continue to utilize the bicycle-mounted unit recently formed for the Republican National Convention.
Though the horses from Cleveland and Fort Worth’s mounted units were the most malodorous and the paramilitary-outfitted officers hanging out of black vans with tinted windows were the most dangerously mysterious, the bicycle-mounted unit was the most visible and effective.
Over the course of the four-day convention in which 50,000 people were estimated to descend on the city, only 23 arrests were made. In this chicken-or-the-egg situation, officers were many, arrests were few, and nearly $61 million of federal and municipal moneys were budgeted (moneys will continue to be dispersed until the end of the year), but it is certain that alternative policing techniques used by bicycle-mounted officers were key to keep abreast with and maneuver in, around and between crowds to prevent escalation.
When Police Chief Calvin D. Williams consulted the Charlotte Police Department on their approach to policing during the 2012 Democratic Convention in their city, they suggested they utilize bicycle-mounted officers.
Bicycle-mounted officers began training back in 2015. Officers completed a 32-hour training program taught by Ben Kaufman of the Clermont, Fla., Law Enforcement Bicycle Association, followed by an addition six days of training. In addition to the program, officers from Cleveland attended the Nuclear Summit in Washington D.C. and May Day in Seattle to practice with and observe local police departments.
For the RNC, CPD purchased 300 bicycles from Safariland, a Jacksonville-based company. Safariland won the contract for $386,800, beating out Volcanic Bicycles, a Seattle-based company favorited to win the contract. Only one local company bid for the contract and was disqualified.
Safariland is a member of the International Police Mountain Bike Association (IPMBA), and offer discounts of 10 percent off the $1,400 MSRP to departments. The Safariland/Kona model purchased with all accessories—siren, disk brakes, front and rear gear bag, and more—ran from $2,200/bicycle. Disassembled bicycles were shipped and assembled by bicycle shops across Greater Cleveland and the Ohio City Bike Coop.
Bicycle-mounted officers will not continue patrolling in units of 30-40 as seen at the RNC, rather units will “probably be two or four guys together working as teams doing things in the neighborhood,” bike patrol head Capt. Thomas Mandzak told Cleveland.com’s Eric Heisig.
Perhaps the most invaluably priceless benefit of the bicycle-mounted unit: better resident-department relations. In contrast to utilizing patrol vehicles, CPD hopes to increase stealth when approaching crimes in progress and visibility in neighborhoods.