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The bike starts here: Police train for downtown patrol

Officer Josh Haglan takes a tumble Tuesday while learning how to maneuver his bicycle over objects. The weeklong training took place in the old Lowe
Officer Josh Haglan takes a tumble Tuesday while learning how to maneuver his bicycle over objects. The weeklong training took place in the old Lowe's building off Enchanted Parkway South. The course presented to the officers was taken from the International Police Mountain Bike Association.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard, The Mirror

Federal Way police officers received training Jan. 13 on how to fight crime from the seat of a bicycle.

The training was part of the application process for the department's seven-person special operations unit. The unit was created in October. Team members will patrol the downtown core on their bicycles.

Bicycles allow more interaction with the public, Cmdr. Chris Norman said. They are also more discreet and offer better maneuverability around the dense downtown area, he said. The bicycle unit will patrol areas such as parks, the transit center and the mall, and officers will have increased public interaction.

As part of their training, the officers learned skills that will take their minds off attempting to control their bikes so that they may focus on their surroundings. They learned how to control their speed, braking and balance. They learned how to maneuver the bicycles through tight spaces and around sharp corners. They learned how to ride up and down stairs and to avoid obstacles.

"This stuff becomes second nature, the ability to control their bike," said Scott Andresen, King County Sheriff deputy and bicycle instructor.

It takes practice. There were a few falls and close calls. The training began Tuesday and lasted through the week. The course curriculum comes from the International Police Mountain Bike Association, said lead instructor Shaun McClellan with Homeland Security, which organized the training.

"We're happy to support Federal Way," McClellan said.

The officers must pass the training course and a written test to become part of the unit. They were required to complete a series of physical skill sets without falling, touching their feet to the ground or hitting any cones to be accepted to the unit. Ten officers applied for positions on the special operations unit, Norman said. Six will be placed on a bike and one will act as supervisor.

Officer Josh Haglan was a bicycle officer in Hawaii and applied to be part of Federal Way's special operations unit because he wants to see the downtown core become a safer place.

"The things happening in the core of the city need a solution," he said.

Officer Nic Peterson sees the unit as an opportunity to have fun and make a difference. Plus, it gets him out of a police car.

"It's a good way to get out into the community," Peterson said.

The officers will likely use bicycles designed for and sold exclusively to military, fire and police departments. The equipment is made by a Washington state company, Volcanic Bicycles, and features superb frame strength, high-quality components, lighting, a rack and an equipment bag. They are expected to cost less to maintain than foreign models, according to a memorandum provided by Assistant Chief of Police Andy Hwang.

Police are asking the city council to approve the purchase of seven bikes. The total cost, including tax, is $15,162, according to the memo. The money would come from 2009 unspent funds that could be forwarded to this year's budget. The bicycles' lifespan is five to 10 years, according to the memo.

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