Bicycling officers bring law enforcement closer to public

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 14, 2006

It’s nice to know that the Selma Police Department is going to be patrolling the streets of Selma on brand new shiny “Trek” bikes.

On Thursday, SPD Chief Martin announced that the city was re-establishing the bike patrol unit – a partnership between the SPD, the Alabama Power Company and the City of Selma’s TRUSTBuild program.

I have often wondered why the effort was stopped in the first place. Perhaps that isn’t as important, though, as initiating the unit once again.

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On my first trip to Selma, the unit was in full force.

The ‘men in black’ on bikes were one of the first things that caught my eye.

This sort of police protection was non-existent in rural Tennessee, where I grew up, so to me it seemed I was witness to big city police protection.

Knowing that law enforcement officers, at any given time, were within a loud yelp gave me a sense of security. After hearing about the crime problems that were occurring in Selma, and seeing beer bottles on the curb of the hotel I was staying at, their presence provided well needed comfort.

Cops, more so than any other profession, has challenges that are sometimes indescribable and even unexplainable.

Most of the criminals that these bad boys have to chase down are more athletic than the majority of the police force.

If you think about it, most criminals are athlete rejects. They were once kids and young adults excelling in sports, which had more talent and athletic ability than most, but have since turned to a life of drugs and crime. Most criminals aren’t your couch potato types. Rather they are in good physical condition and can run with the best of them, especially when someone is chasing them with a gun.

Being on bikes will give the officers the ability to weave in and through alleys chasing culprits and hopefully catching the majority of them.

In addition to the benefits of this new exercise routine, and more importantly – the sense of safety – downtown should escalate.

It wasn’t too many years ago, when cops would walk the streets and check the back doors of merchants to ensure they were locked and safe. Shaking hands with children as they accompanied their parents to downtown merchants was an everyday occurrence. Those days seem to be long gone -but now with this program hitting the streets again, a difference can be made. Currently, it seems the only time you see a police officer is when you need one. The new bike unit will close that gap and build some bridges between merchants, civilians and officers building needed relationships.

In considering the benefits of this new unit, I think about the number of instances that if police officers had

been on bikes, crimes could have either been prevented or reacted to in a quicker manner. Think about the shootout on Broad Street a couple of years ago. Had officers been on the street, what additional credence would have been given to the DA’s case? Could an officer had identified the culprits or would the occurrence have even taken place? Many statistics tell us that just the presence of law enforcement prevent crimes. What about fights and wrecks that happen occasionally? How quickly will the police be able to react now that they are present downtown? I can’t tell you how many times I hear a screeching halt of tires and an accompanying slam from one car into the other on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the intersection near our building. Often, by the time the police are able to respond – one party has already fled the scene.

Overall, the idea is a good one, and I hope to look out my office window from time to time and see officers riding up and down Water Avenue and Broad Street. There are bound to be times when I, as well as others in downtown may need the help of one of these officers.

Jesse Lindsey is the publisher of The Selma Times-Journal.