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November 3, 2013

Bicycles big assist in community policing

NORMAN — Norman police officers wanting a stealthy approach have an usual tool in their arsenal — bicycles. Police on bikes have ridden up on drug deals and car burglars without being noticed. The Norman bicycle team has 15 members, including four female officers. Additionally, the team has two lieutenants and a commanding captain.

It didn’t start out that way.

“Apparently, the first bikes we got were from property custody,” said Lt. Jamie Shattuck, bike team member. “I think that Shon Elroy went to bike instructor school. He was our first instructor.”

Twenty years or so ago, two night shift police officers — Elroy and Harold Nicholson — were concerned about break-ins in downtown Norman. The pair did their research and became convinced that patrolling on bicycles could help.

“We had gotten interested in mountain biking and then we got interested in police patrolling on bikes,” said Sgt. Elroy who is the NPD range master.

“We met with a lot of resistance at first, but we proved ourselves,” Elroy said.

In 1992, the idea of modern police on bikes was new. Seattle is credited with the first modern bike squad in 1987. By 1992, the University of Oklahoma police did a lot of patrol work on bikes, but the idea of city police on bikes had not caught on.

Those first bike officers made a lot of arrests at games, especially at Lindsey Street and Jenkins Avenue and on Campus Corner. Mostly, it was trouble with drunks, Elroy said. Often troublemakers were told, “call a cab or you can go to jail.”

Elroy rode “a huge Cannondale” from property custody for a couple of years. At one time, Campus Corner donated a bike.

“Campus Corner really loved having the bike officers out there,” Elroy said.

Officers on bikes are much faster than foot patrol and have much greater mobility than cars. Additionally, they are quiet and can approach a suspect without being noticed.

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