EDINBURG — Police rolled out their new wheels at the city’s National Night Out Tuesday.
Edinburg debuted its new bike patrol unit and introduced its three officers to the public during a community event that aims to improve the relationship between law enforcement and the people it serves.
The city celebrated the nationwide effort at the Edinburg Municipal Park grounds Tuesday, where hundreds gathered for musical acts, performers, tasty treats and even free school supplies.
The public event offered a great opportunity for Edinburg police to roll out it’s new bike patrol unit, which although limited in size and scope, is expected to give the department an edge.
“As of now, we’re only going to be actually working special events, such as carnivals and parades and concerts,” officer Ariel Benedict said Monday. “But Edinburg fully intends that we expand the program and we make it a larger bike patrol unit, and eventually we’d like to start being out in the community on bikes at all hours of the day and all hours of the night.”
Benedict is one of three officers assigned to the unit, and in order to carry out her duties, she and her colleagues had to undergo specialized training.
The Edinburg Police Department teamed up with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the International Mountain Bike Association to equip its officers with the necessary skills to patrol on two wheels.
“It’s a 40-hour course, and throughout the week we had a lot of ride time,” Benedict said about the class. “It’s very physically demanding.”
Officers carried out a number of tasks, including launching their bikes over a fence, and even took a written exam at the end of the course, she said.
“We did a lot of street training — we were on the road with the vehicles. We did a lot of offroad and on-terrain training, so uphill/downhill,” she said. “We learned how to go up the stairs and down the stairs on our bikes.
“It’s also very important that we learn how to shoot from our bicycles as well, so we actually went to a qualification range (to practice) shooting.”
The bicycles give the police department options when it comes to responding to a call.
“A bike is definitely a better option when it comes to highly congested areas with lots of pedestrians,” Benedict said. “It’s a much easier way to approach a situation when we’re called upon.”
Bikes are also a better option if police need to approach a situation “tactfully and quietly” as to not give up their position, Benedict added.
“There’s tons of advantages for an officer to be on a bike,” she said. “There’s lots of times where we can’t get the officers in quick enough if a fight breaks out at a carnival, but now that we have bikes, we can move through efficiently and safely and get to the problem.”
Edinburg police hope to certify as many officers as possible in the near future in order to expand the unit.
“Slowly but surely, we’re getting officers that training,” Benedict said. “It’s something that’s a necessity for Edinburg PD now, being that the community is expanding. It’s something that we’ve noticed that we need.”