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Bike patrol officer asks for our support

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

[Bike patrol officers stopped
by a Mocktails event
in September 2006.]

Do you think Portland would be a better place if we had more cops patrolling our neighborhoods on bikes rather than in cars and on motorcycles?

I do. I strongly believe that more bike patrols would be a great way to deal with our neighborhood safety issues.

Yet despite their effectiveness and popularity in the community, currently only two of the five Metro-area precincts (Central and Southeast) have an active bike patrol.

During my recent bike-along with Southeast Bike Patrol, the officers told me maybe only “a few dozen” officers have done bike patrol out of 900 or so total officers.

This isn’t because Mayor Potter and Chief Sizer don’t like bike patrols (at least I hope that’s not why), it’s because of real financial and human resource constraints.

SE Bike Patrol officer Robert Pickett contacted me to explain the issue and to encourage us to support bike patrols in the upcoming police budget planning cycle:

“A two-officer bicycle patrol costs a lot more money (mostly in the form of officer salaries) and can only cover a much smaller area than one officer in a patrol car.

A bicycle patrol takes personnel away from the pool of officers available to answer 911 calls, making it more difficult to accomplish what most of us would probably consider the most basic of police functions–respond when we call for help. (Bike officers do respond to emergency calls, but only when a call happens to come out within reasonable biking distance from the patrol, which isn’t that often.)

Thus while police bicycle patrols have many positive aspects, they take away resources from other police functions.

Allocation of limited resources is a challenge that faces our leaders constantly, but we can make it easier for them by letting them know what we would prefer.

I would suggest writing letters to your local precinct commander asking about the possibility of creating a patrol if they don’t have one already, or supporting the continuation of one already in place.

More importantly, send messages to your City Council person, the Mayor and the chief suggesting more money be allocated for police bicycle patrols. The next budget cycle is close at hand, so any input they receive in the coming weeks will be quite timely. There is no doubt that positive citizen response played a large part in getting the Southeast bike patrol going.

If you’d like to see more bike patrols in Portland, email Chief Sizer and Mayor Potter (see below), contact your neighborhood’s precinct commander, and make your voice heard at the Police Bureau Budget Meetings coming next month.


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