JBM-HH bike patrol MPs pedal into second season
June 7, 2013
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Perhaps you've seen them at an intersection, answering a question from someone needing directions on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall or assisting visitors in Arlington National Cemetery.
The JBM-HH Police bike patrol, a mission which began in 2012, resumed May 1. The two-member team will continue to be out and about until Oct. 1.
"The point of having a bike patrol is to interact with the community," said JBM-HH Directorate of Emergency Services Provost Sergeant Master Sgt. Jason Hazzard. "They're more approachable because they're not in a patrol car. They're outfitted with bike shorts, polo shirts and inclement weather gear for riding in the rain."
Mobility is an advantage for the police cyclists. "They're able to go places that limit police cars on the roads. These individuals can respond to anything, anywhere ... and they can ride faster," Hazzard said.
Serving the community and assisting the public is a vital part of the department's mission. "We're here to assist the public, not just ride around in a patrol car issuing tickets or arresting people. The bike patrol is present at special events, like Twilight Tattoo on JBM-HH and the International Festival at Fort McNair," said Hazzard. "We're also a vital part of promoting bike safety in the community and participating with the base's safety day events."
Upholding the law is a vital part of the police department's job, and the provost sergeant feels the police bike patrol is a convenient way to deter crime. "A criminal wouldn't expect a police officer to suddenly ride up on a bicycle on the sidewalk in front of a building. Bike patrol is a great force multiplier ... it gives us the ability to see and hear things, be mobile and at places we normally wouldn't be able to go," Hazzard said.
Pfc. Michael Hughes returned to the bike patrol this year and is accompanied by rookie member Pfc. Adrian Tibbs, both members of the 289th MP Company on JBM-HH. The two-member team spends about 10 working hours out on patrol. If a mission requires additional patrol members, Hazzard said "Department of the Army civilian police officers support the mission with one trained officer per shift." Selected by 289th MP Company leadership, the soldiers attended a one-week law enforcement bike course.
Last year, Hughes completed the International Police Mountain Bike Association class in Leesburg, with another soldier and 17 civilian police officers. Tibbs completed the course at the Rappahannock Criminal Justice Academy in Fredericksburg, training with sheriff's deputies from neighboring counties.
Hughes expressed an interest in being on police bicycle patrol last year when he heard there were slots available. "I'd never heard of MPs on bikes before, and it's another part of my military experience," said the Kansas City, Kan., native.
Tibbs, a native of Detroit, Mich. said he grew up in the city and never thought about all the maintenance learned during training which is required for keeping up his two-wheel mode of transport.
The course, a combination of classroom and road instruction, prepared the soldiers to ride and handle police situations on bicycles during the day or at night. "Since we're out in the open we learned to use the bike to shield us from a potential aggressor and maneuver safely through traffic," said Hughes.
"We also learned to conduct emergency stops, approach someone and shoot a weapon from the bicycle. It was physically challenging - riding more than 100 miles throughout the week," Tibbs added. "We rode the bikes through an obstacle course, maneuvered the bike in a nine-foot 'box' structure and completed scenarios like cycling in a wooded area while searching for someone."
Both soldiers credited the Army's physical fitness requirements for already being in shape for the physically demanding work. "It's a different type of cardio exercise than running," said Hughes.
The MPs spend nine-10 hours on shifts, riding the joint base, including Fort McNair and the vast acreage at ANC. They ride in extremely hot weather and rain, day or night.
The bicycle patrol rides a mountain-style, law enforcement equipped bike, equipped with high-quality shocks for cycling.
"Last year the bikes we used were much heavier, and the ones we're on this year are about 10 pounds lighter. I don't feel as fatigued on the new bike. We also had problems with last year's bikes - mostly getting a lot of flats," said Hughes, who recalled changing tires about 10 times during his first season on patrol. "There was a sharp object inside my tire and almost every time I'd hit a bump, I'd hear a hissing sound and knew I had another flat."
Hughes said the MPs would not have the use of a patrol car to transport the bikes this year. "It was convenient to keep a bicycle pump and spare tires in the car last year. "If anything happened we didn't have to walk too far to change a tire."
The soldier said he and his patrol partner would be careful not to get flat tires this year. "I went through a lot of tubes and can teach Tibbs not to pop a tire," he said with a smile.
Hughes was not bothered about having no patrol car to transport the bikes and store extra equipment this season. "If something happens, we'll adapt and overcome. One of us will walk to get a spare tire or we'll call another patrol car that may have a vehicle available to help us.
In addition to their patrols, the MPs perform weekly bike maintenance. "Every Friday we remove the rear tire, clean the chain and cassette, check the brakes, clean the bike entirely and ensure everything is in good working order," said Tibbs.
Both soldiers said they enjoyed their work and had the trust of their provost sergeant to be out on their own as junior service members and entrusted to complete missions.
"Yes, we still pull people over, even while on bicycles. It's our job to enforce the law but we really want people to know we're out here to help them and they can approach us," said Hughes.