Mountain bikes are a hot property within the Metropolitan Police Department. Commander Hilton Burton of the 4th District says that the bikes are ideal for high-density areas such as Columbia Heights, where the streets are narrow and officers have to utilize alleys and sidewalks.
But before the 22 bike-certified officers at the 4th District’s Park Road substation, which serves Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant, can mount up for patrol, they have to trek three miles uptown to the main station at 6001 Georgia Ave. NW. The substation itself, officers say, has only one or two bikes on site.
One of the Park Road officers, speaking anonymously, says he has to share a bicycle with an officer at the upper station, who works a different shift. “I would have to go up…and get my bike,” he says, “which they wouldn’t have allowed me anyway, since it belongs to the other officer.”
Inspector Robin Hooey, who is in charge of the substation, says the long-distance arrangement shouldn’t keep any officers from getting their wheels. Bikes are housed at the main station, he says, because “they just have the space to house those things.”
The substation, which was built two years ago, does have a garage that could hold bicycles, Hooey allows. But it’s currently otherwise occupied. “The contractors, when they were fixing the garage, left some stuff in there,” Hooey says. “They need to come get it.”
Sgt. Chester Jackson, bicycle coordinator for the 4th District, joined the mountain-bike program when it began in 1994. Jackson keeps his own bike at the substation, he says. According to Jackson, originally officers were supposed to store their bikes in their lockers. “Officers were refusing to put their bikes in the lockers,” Jackson says. “They was parking them all around the locker room.” As a result, he says, bike parts tended to migrate. “If officers had a damaged seat,” Jackson says, “they’d put their co-worker’s seat on there.”
Consequently, a secure room was built at the main station especially for the bikes, Jackson says. And with bike patrols on hold for the winter, he says, substation officers “chose to let them stay at the upper end because they haven’t been riding them.”
The Park Road bike officer disputes that claim. “The person in charge up there…he’s made it perfectly clear that the bikes are supposed to stay up there,” he says.
Burton says he wants to make sure that “the equipment doesn’t walk away or get lost.” While some officers get individual bikes, others have to share them; there’s no hard-and-fast rule, he says. “Some officers may not want to ride their bikes, and some like to ride their bike a lot more than other officers,” he says.
The substation will take possession of about half the 4th District’s 58 bikes by May, Burton says, when it is transferred from the 4th District to the 3rd District in the PSA realignment. But the Park Road officer says the coming switch has exacerbated struggles over equipment. The main station, he says, “came here one night and took away our laser radar gun. Lt. Porter says he needs it back at the main station because they’re trying to account for all their equipment.”
Timothy Herson, property manager for Columbia Heights Village, a housing complex, says that Cmdr. Larry McCoy of the 3rd District helped him identify the need for mounted patrols when Herson was applying for a security grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. When Herson sought to put some of the federal funds toward mountain bikes for police officers, McCoy encouraged him to keep custody of the bikes at the housing complex. Explaining that the best way for private groups to donate bikes might be to adopt Herson’s approach, McCoy affirms, “One of the things we’re hoping is [Herson] can keep ’em on his property.”
Herson has put in an order at City Bikes for a pair of bikes and accompanying helmets. “Bike officers came and told us what kind of specs they wanted,” Herson says. “Those bikes will probably be here in the next week or so.” City Bikes co-owner Philip Cooper estimates that the police bikes cost between $1,200 and $1,300. CP