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Police on Bikes

NDW police officers take on the high-speed turns and takedowns of the NAS Patuxent River law enforcement bicycle course, the only one of its kind in the area. During their 40 hours of training, officers also learn how to pursue suspects in the dark, how to take down suspects safely and how to navigate various obstacles.

by Brian Jaffe Pax River Public Affairs

On a hot afternoon when most would be working in air conditioned offices, six police officers braved the heat while pushing themselves to the limit as they practiced their bicycle takedowns and high-speed turns.

Two NDW and four Police Officers from Bethesda spent more than 40 hours in Pax River, at the NDW region's only bicycle training site, learning how to take down suspects, ride safely in the dark and how to pursue suspects at high speeds and over various obstacles.

"They get about 20 hours of classroom time, where they learn patrol procedures," said Sgt. Steve Schuyler, one of the bike instructors here. "They also get 20-28 hours of road time." Schuyler is joined by Sgt. Kirk Steib in instructing the class.

On this particular day, the trainees were practicing hook-turns and power slides. Hook turns are controlled skids, which bike police use to quickly turn around when a suspect changes direction. To properly accomplish the hook-turn, the feet must remain on the pedals during the skid so that the officer can immediately resume pursuit once the turn is complete.

Power slides are used to take down suspects, and also involve controlled skids. The principle behind the power slide is that the riding officer will skid so that the bike's rear wheel slides into the suspects foot, taking the suspect down. These officers used small orange cones as their suspects.

The practice area also includes several ramps and staircases to allow the trainees to practice riding over difficult terrain, much of which is encountered while pursuing suspects.

In order to pass the class, there are two tests required. One is a written exam, the other is a grueling 45 minute riding test through an obstacle course in which the trainees must demonstrate mastery of the maneuvers they have learned.

Maj. Garrel Mercer, acting Chief NAS Patuxent River Police, said he was proud to support the NDW region by offering this service and providing training to officers region wide.

"When we first started, we had to provide our own gear, our own bikes," Mercer said. "In the past few years we have really made progress to get where we are today. We are the only location in the region with this training."

Mercer and Schuyler said one of the goals the training has is to develop more instructors for the bike classes so that training can be brought to other areas in the region.

As for the class making hook turns and doing power slides on that hot June afternoon, they had a long way to go, including a nighttime ride the following evening.

"They average about 60 miles of road time," Mercer said. "That's not counting the time practicing here."

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