By Mr. Andrew R McIntyre (Jackson)June 29, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Five Fort Jackson police officers made history last week by becoming the first certified mountain bike police officers on post.
The Directorate of Emergency Services partnered with the Columbia and Palmetto Health police departments to host a Mountain Bike Training Certification Course for a group of 10 police officers. After the weeklong training that included how to maintain a bike, nutrition classes and riding more than 60 miles, the police officers who participated are "Class A Certified" mountain bike police officers through the Law Enforcement Bicycle Association.
"I thought the training was very good overall. l loved the stress part of it and I think we should do it more often," said Cpl. Raymond Meals, Fort Jackson police officer.
The training took the police officers through unfamiliar terrain.
"These guys had to do a 26-mile bike ride in one day through rugged terrain, rocks, mud and water, soft sand, the heat, the elements of the weather," said Sgt. Daniel Wesley, who is a certified mountain bike police officer with the Columbia Police Department and was one of the instructors of the course.
LEBA requires an officer to complete four consecutive days of mountain bike training covering various topics to receive the certification.
"What this (training) is going to do is get our officers out in the community. This helps our people become more comfortable with police officers in the community," said Capt. Fred Paxton, Fort Jackson police supervisor.
"It's always very important to have that community contact. We've lost an element (mountain bike officers) during that time of post-Sept. 11, when law enforcement took a big shift and moved into a more technological range because of the type of threat that may have been out that time," said Jennifer Jutkofsky, Columbia police officer and LEBA instructor.
"Using technology is an absolute must in this profession because we must keep up with everyone else out there, but the factor that we cannot lose is the element of the officer being out of the car and being able to have community contact, which a vehicle does not allow," she said.
She said officers on mountain bikes also give police departments the opportunity to achieve a tactical dynamic that cannot be attained in a vehicle. The Fort Jackson mountain bike police officers are expected to be used in the housing areas and other places where cars are unable to pursue a suspect, Paxton said.
"We want to be a positive, approachable role model for the kids," Meals said.