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PPB Chief Reese joins a shift with downtown bike patrol

Posted by on June 18th, 2014 at 11:26 am

PPB Police Chief Mike Reese on bike patrol-9

Portland Police Bureau Chief Mike Reese on SW 2nd Ave and Ankeny this morning.
(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland Police Bureau Chief Mike Reese is on bike patrol today.

I follow @chiefreese on Twitter and this morning he mentioned he was out with bike officers today. Then, after a few readers texted me his whereabouts (thanks Ryan and Dee!), I rolled out to track him down. I ended up meeting him and Officer Todd Engstrom near the corner of SW 2nd and Burnside.

The duo was checking on an illegally parked car as I rolled up. Not wanting to interrupt them (and knowing my visit was completely unscheduled), I waited for a chance to chat.

PPB Police Chief Mike Reese on bike patrol-5

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PPB Police Chief Mike Reese on bike patrol-6

Chief Reese and Officer Todd Engstrom chat with a downtown resident.
PPB Police Chief Mike Reese on bike patrol-1

PPB Police Chief Mike Reese on bike patrol-3

PPB Police Chief Mike Reese on bike patrol-8

A closer look at the bike: a disc-brake equipped Fuji mtb with slick tires.

Given that he competes in triathlons, I knew Chief Reese was no stranger to cycling; but I never knew he was certified for bike patrol. He told me this morning he’s maintained his official certification since 1990. The Chief does one shift a month and this month he chose to ride with Ofc. Engstrom on a “PPI” shift (Portland Patrol Inc., a private security company that partners with the PPB downtown).

While the PPB has nearly 1,000 officers only eight are on regular bike patrol (dozens more have access to bicycles for use during large marches and protests, as we saw during the Occupy Portland events of 2011). There are currently six officers on downtown bike patrol and two assigned to SE Hawthorne Blvd.

Chief Reese is an advocate of bike patrol. “For downtown,” he shared with me this morning, “It’s one of the best ways to address neighborhood livability issues. Both [foot patrol and bike patrol] are a lot more effective way to engage with people and to have a conversation — just like we’re having right now.”

Unfortunately, Reese said that due to budget and operational issues, he doesn’t think we’ll be seeing more cops on bikes any time soon. “We’re so lean as an agency, it’s difficult to envision more officers on bikes,” he said.

According to Reese, the primary reason the bureau doesn’t use more bike officers is their inability to respond to 911 calls. When an emergency call comes in, every officer on a bike means there’s one less officer available to respond. “We’ve got to carve resources from our patrol branch to do this work, and that’s hard to do.”

Officer Todd Engstrom is the self-described “point-man” of the PPB’s bike patrol unit. He’s the main bike instructor for other officers and the PPB recently paid for him to complete the comprehensive, two-week mechanic certification course at United Bicycle Institute (“I got to build a wheel,” he shared this morning, “that was pretty cool!”).

PPB Police Chief Mike Reese on bike patrol-4

Officer Todd Engstrom.

Engstrom said most of his job is dealing with low-level livability issues. “We’re just trying to keep downtown clean,” he said. He also has regular run-ins with bike thieves. He knows several who are prolific and each time he sees them he asks about their bikes and runs them through his police radio to see if they’re stolen. “There’s one guy who I see a lot,” he said, “He probably steals 2-3 bikes a day. He can cut them with bolt cutters in a few seconds and then he sells them for $20-30 bucks… and that’s his heroin fix for the day.”

Engstrom is also a big believer in bike patrol, but sees two disadvantages over patrol cars. First, he doesn’t have access to a computer to easily and quickly run the names of suspects. And second, he can’t transport arrestees. When he does make an arrest he has to interrupt another officer with a patrol car to take the person to the justice center for processing (I ran into Portland Pedicabs owner Ryan Hashagen this morning who said he’s had discussion with the PPB about the potential of using a pedicab for this in the future).

“I put my body [person he has arrested] into the patrol car and then ride over to the justice center… And I usually beat them there,” he said with a smile.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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John LascurettesRobert Burchettmatt picioJess E. HaddenGlowBoy Recent comment authors
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Allan
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Allan

If they want to see people eye to eye, why do they wear helmets? It is visually very different than seeing a head without a helmet

AndyC of Linnton
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AndyC of Linnton

I say bring back the classic police cap!

groovin101
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groovin101

I see 2 advantages:

1) A helmet should not be viewed as “bikey”, and the more the non-biking public sees other regular folks in basic bike gear, the easier it will be to relate.

2) Police officers are a symbol of authority and as such serve as an example. If I was out and about with my little girls and they saw an officer without a helmet, I would have a tough time explaining why they don’t have to follow the same safety rules.

resopmok
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resopmok

i thought the explanation is easy, cops do whatever they want.

Spiffy
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Spiffy

You can still respond to 911 calls on a bicycle. You just wouldn’t respond to ones that are very far away.

Anne Hawley
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Anne Hawley

Jonathan, thanks for the great reporting. I agree that most of the reasons for not having more cops on bikes sound like the rationalizations of an auto-centric perspective. But the police chief rides a bike and the bureau sent their main guy to bike school, and that gives me hope that the PPB perspective can change.

9watts
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9watts

“most of the reasons for not having more cops on bikes sound like the rationalizations of an auto-centric perspective”

Yep. Especially as
+ I’ve heard from the Portland Police just last week that their recent project to put more cops on foot and bike patrols (downtown and on Hawthorne) has corresponded to less need for the cops-in-cars to do their thing; and
+ a cop on a bike ****has*** to be less expensive than a cop in a car with a too-big engine and a laptop and all those lights.

It would be interesting to have a more in depth conversation with Mike Reese or someone from the PPB about this. I ask the officers who come to our neighborhood meetings about this every chance I get. The answers I’ve gotten in those settings have not dissuaded me from thinking there’s more there than Reese’s comments suggest.

matt picio
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PPB *is* changing – compare their interactions with the bike community now with 5 years ago, before Mike Reese’s tenure as police chief. Jonathan’s done pieces on Chief Reese before. Reese was in SERT (SWAT in older parlance), he was very active in the police union, has a reputation for a clear head and a consensus builder, and was the commander of Central Precinct before becoming chief.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of working with him when I was a WNBR co-organizer. Carl Larson and I met with the police several times ( at that time Commander Reese, Captain Erik Hendricks, Lt. Parman, Sgt Smith and others) to iron out the details of the collaboration which is still ongoing and manages navigating 5k-10k cyclists through the city safely. Mike Reese was attentive, understanding of our concerns, receptive to suggestions, professional, and really changed a number of advocates views of what interacting with the PPB could be like.

Sure, there are still issues – most of which deal with PPB’s treatment of minorities and those with mental health conditions. But those seem to be improving – and when’s the last time you heard of a cyclist getting tasered? Not long ago, the term “jack-booted thugs” was bandied about frequently in Bikeportland comments about certain officers – how often have *those* stories been posted in the last 2 years?

“Cops” are people. They are young, old, good, and unfortunately sometimes bad. Overall, they are dedicated, hard-working, professional, and doing the best they can at a difficult job where a single mistake might kill them, or lose them their job and their family’s financial support. Their every action is scrutinized – rightfully so, but that’s a challenging environment to work in.

All that isn’t aimed at you, Anne – just a general comment because these stories tend to dredge up a lot of negative opinions of our police and it’s rare for commenters to talk about the positive interactions.

I think the Portland Police Bureau has come a long way – and Mike Reese is a huge part of the change in culture there. Change never happens as fast as many of us would like it to, but it’s happening nonetheless.

reader
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reader

“There’s one guy who I see a lot,” he said, “He probably steals 2-3 bikes a day.”

Why isn’t he in jail??

Reza
Guest
Reza

Why aren’t these guys ticketing transit mall scofflaws?

Joe
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Joe

I agree we need them is spots that need help lets say, one more bike on MAX.. ahhhh no! lol wish these dude and dudets would wave at me feel little better about being on the same page, oh this just in Wilsonville now has couple bike cops and well lets say they might not understand stop law and bikey laws…. sad 🙁 wish they would get focus on red light runners and auto related issues towards humans here.. 🙂

scott
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scott

I have never seen someone look so serious when riding up a roll-in to the sidewalk.

Game Face level 10.

scott
Guest
scott

“Beat” as in arrive before the patrol car.

CaptainKarma
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CaptainKarma

Total Freudian slip. All cops should be dogged by video drones.

Mike
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Mike

Probably meant “body” as in dead body because all cops lie and carry guns and kill people every chance they get, and probably meant “beat” as in beat the dead body because cops love beating people (dead or alive), right?

He was probably “smiling” because he was thinking of shooting and beating his next cyclist victim.

He probably only rides a bike to lure his victims into a sense of security and familiarity before he needlessly and unjustifiably attacks them. I bet he loathes bikes and cyclists, but he rides anyway because it is a great camouflage.

He better watch it, we’re totally on to him.

Yes, this is all totally tongue in cheek and (hopefully) dripping with sarcasm. In all seriousness, THANK YOU to Officer Engstrom and Chief Reese for all the work they do and risks they take. You are very much appreciated.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Made me laugh!

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Perhaps PPB bike officers could pedal 600 watt e-bikes with speed governors disabled. If a 911 call comes in, they could hit the throttle and get there at 30 mph. The e-bike’s battery could power lights and siren, and the iPad. Hmm, if these were e-Bakfiets, they could even transport arrestees. I like it!

Rob Chapman
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Rob Chapman

I like where you’re going there John!

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

I agree, police patrol seems like one of the best potential uses for e-bikes.

Nick Groesz
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Nick Groesz

I have no idea how practical it would be, but I really, really like the idea of transporting arrested suspects to booking with a pedicab.

Craig Harlow
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Craig Harlow

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1i7LQGdZyY

Clip from the original UK “The Office”, provides a similar image :^)

Pete
Guest
Pete

Great article, thanks for this! Really discouraged by some of the h8ful comments though :(.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Reese is a great guy. I didn’t know he was a triathlete, but I’ve chatted about surfing with him. Glad to see him out there on a bike!

Jess E. Hadden
Guest

Todd Engstrom — the dude who liked to attack children from behind during the Occupy Portland days? He’s a real piece of work — but he’s lying, he doesn’t wait to beat his suspects. He does it right there on the street.