Twelve RCMP officers have just been schooled in the art of riding a bicycle.
And while it may not sound like it should be a difficult task, RCMP Cpl. Brian Cameron said the course they completed is unlike any ordinary class that a civilian would take.
“It's a 40-hour course, which seems extreme, but we're not teaching them how to ride a bike; we're teaching them how to ride a police bike. We're teaching them how to use the bike instead of a police car,” said Cameron, of the RCMP detachment in Sackville.
The riders were in Windsor for a week this August to take the course. The front line police officers, stationed in detachments from Windsor to Yarmouth, were each equipped with brand new gear and a custom bicycle.
“So, it's kind of like when you go to our training academies, you already have a driver's licence but you're not ready to drive a police car under emergency situations,” explained Cameron, as the officers were getting ready to participate in a training scenario that involved pulling over someone in a vehicle.
“We teach them to drive under emergency situations, how to safely deal with people while on their bikes, how to manoeuvre them through traffic, how to pull over cars with their bikes, deal with suspects safely — using their bike as, sort of, a policing tool as opposed to a commuting tool, I guess, would be the best way to say it.”
Cameron said being able to use a bicycle instead of relying on a cruiser is an essential tool cops have in their arsenal. Simply put, bicycles can access places that vehicles cannot.
“There's lots of downtown cores (in the Southwest Nova region). There's lots of areas where you just can't get into them in your police car without being seen before you get there. It just offers us a different mode of transportation to do our patrols,” said Cameron.
The corporal said the main challenge for the officers is that they're “used to sitting in a 3,000 pound moving office that has everything we need on it and we're switching it for a 40-pound office that has very little on it.”
Cameron said the graduates of the training program will be putting their new skills to the test for the remainder of the summer, noting they will likely be attending big events, like the Wharf Rat Rally in Digby.
“(That) would be a place where it gets very congested and tight to move police cars around, but two people can move around very quickly on a bicycle,” he noted.
Cameron hopes the program will continue as it provides RCMP officers with the necessary tools and training to better serve the public.