INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – On an unseasonably warm fall day, a mass of police officers could be seen at the top of a parking garage on Butler University’s campus.
The officers hailed from several agencies including the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Fishers, Cumberland and campus jurisdictions.
The location was not meant to provide the law enforcers a raised vantage point, instead it was training ground for patrolling on two wheels.
“Community policing is really at its best when you’re on the bike,” IMPD bike unit patrolman and trainer Jeff Parmelee said.
The officers were attending a semi-annual skills training workshop to be better practiced when patrolling communities on bicycle.
IMPD has two full-time bike units based out of the department’s downtown and north districts. Each member is specially certified for what Parmelee described as a coveted and important position.
“You can get to places that other people can’t go; alleys, in between houses. You can see a lot more. You’re less visible to people who are doing bad things and sometimes you can sneak right up on them (and) catch them in the act,” Parmelee said.
IMPD’s bike patrol rides between 15 and 30 miles a day. To an avid, recreational cyclist that would not be a lot but while on the clock the officers spend four to six of their eight-hour shifts in the saddle.
“Sometimes we’re in the right place, at the right time. We get to chase somebody down on the bike and make an apprehension,” Parmelee said. “We’re not jumping out of a car stiff, running. We’ve actually been riding and we’re ready to roll.”
In addition to the hundreds of arrests made by police on bikes every year, the officers enjoy an advantage in connecting with the community they serve.
“It gets you into the neighborhoods where you can talk to people,” Parmelee said of a bicycle officer’s visibility. “People really like to see us. In a car, you’re not really approachable. On a bike, you are.”