By MATT CRANE
Officers from both the Mississippi State University and Starkville police departments are literally getting back on the bike.
Following last week’s four-day training period, 10 officers, eight from MSUPD and two from SPD, have been certified for bicycle patrol by the Law Enforcement Bicycle Association.
MSUPD Chief Georgia Lindley said LEBA training has been conducted on and off over the last few years, but believes the bike patrol is beneficial to the department.
“It’s a valuable law enforcement tool because they are able to move around more quickly than in vehicular traffic,” she said. “Also, they’re more approachable, because it’s a lot more difficult to have a conversation with an officer in a car.”
Georgia Lindley said MSU will see an increase bike officers on campus this fall, and those participating learned a variety of techniques including how to maneuver stairs and buildings.
“These bikes are built especially for police officers,” she said. “These bikes allow them to pursue a suspect, dismount and continue pursuit on foot.”
Georgia Lindley said the bicycle patrol would be effective on campus for incidents including crowd control and car accidents.
“They’ll be able to continue regular routine patrol and respond to criminal activity and complaints,” she said. “They can respond to anything a vehicle can, just as long as its relatively close to campus.”
Along with a continuous 15-mile bike ride, officers in training were required to learn certain techniques including Cross-Over Drills, Powerslide Exits and Push Off Cross-Overs, to name a few.
The MSUPD officers trained were: Tim Pritchett, Phillip Miller, McClain Mullins, Tarah Shaddix, Bo Shelton, Emmitt Johnson Jr., Kyle Kelly and Martha Carradine.
Officer Pritchett said the four-day training period was rough and required a lot of endurance.
“It’s been 25 years since I rode a bike,” Pritchett said. “I think we rode over 54 miles in four days time.”
Pritchett said including the long rides, officers were required to participate in several different types of scenarios and obstacles including turning in tight spots and riding up and down steps.
“I think I was the oldest one to participate in the class, and a lot of them didn’t expect me to finish,” he said. “But we started with 10, and we ended with 10.”
Georgia Lindley said she believed the training went well and was thankful for Eddie Scales, the LEBA certified instructor who led the program.
“He was an officer before his employment at the (Sonny Montgomery) Center for America’s Veterans,” she said. “I think this is going to be a great thing for the MSU Police Department and the Starkville Police Department.”
SPD Chief David Lindley said his department send two officers through the training course, Brandon Gann and Laura Hines-Roberson.
“We have regular patrol officers that we cross train,” he said. “When it comes to bike patrol, we use them as needed.”
Those needs, David Lindley said, included large event weekends, including Bulldog Bash, and have proven effective in cases of car burglaries.
“The bikes work because large crowds in any one area are difficult to get to by vehicle,” he said. “We can utilize bike patrol at night and the suspect is not aware of it.”
David Lindley said officers on bike patrol will help reinforce the helmet ordinance Starkville has in place by setting an example, and areas such as downtown, the Cotton District and certain neighborhoods would be patrolled depending on the nature of the event.
“They environment is what induces that type of patrol,” he said. “They give us another tool in the box.”