Following the lead of several other Southern California cities, San Gabriel launched its bicycle police patrol program Wednesday and announced plans to buy electric-assisted bikes for the team in the next few months.
Funded by a $150,000, three-year community policing grant, the program will have two full-time and four part-time officers and a program coordinator, said Chief David Lawton.
The success of bike patrols in other cities played a part--but was not the key reason--for San Gabriel’s program. The bikes’ potential for providing stronger community policing possibilities and a stealthier means of transportation appealed to the department.
“We felt they would be particularly effective because portions of town have a high density of business, and a bicycle could maneuver relatively easily through those areas,” Lawton said. “Also, the officer would be closer to people on bikes than in patrol cars.”
The bikes will not bump any patrol cars off the street: The grant allows the department to hire two full-time officers to maintain enough manpower for both patrols, Lawton said. The part-time positions will be filled by current officers who will work overtime.
Aside from a new set of wheels and a more flexible uniform, bike police will be equipped with the same gear as their automotive counterparts.
“They will have guns and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “And there will be a bag on the back of the bike that says ‘Police.’ ”