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Officers on bikes will soon be pedaling around Costa Mesa

Costa Mesans will soon see more officers on two wheels. The Police Department is planning to start a bicycle patrol program in the next few months.

The last time Costa Mesa police had a bike detail was more than a decade ago, when a two-man team worked primarily on pedals but also helped on other assignments, according to Capt. Mark Manley. That program ended in the 1990s, he said.

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But recently, the force set aside money for four mountain bikes, and a few officers with experience on cycles are waiting in the wings, Lt. Greg Scott said.

"It's going to happen," said Scott, though he added that details such as when and where the bikes will be deployed are still being hammered out.

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Manley said the two-wheel patrols could be a boon in commercial areas or parks where officers can interact with people.

"It's easier to stop and say hello on a bike," Manley said.

He estimated that residents and visitors will start seeing the bike officers periodically this summer.

At least at first, he said, they will be in the field on a part-time basis.

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"Like all deployment strategies, we will have to be sensitive to staffing and ensuring we meet our priority of adequately staffing our patrol shifts, first and foremost," Manley said in an email.

The Costa Mesa Police Department has been slowly filling its ranks after weathering dozens of vacancies in the past few years. The force thinned as officers left the department and the city delayed hiring replacements while some council members pushed for pension reforms.

The stalemate ended in 2012, when Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law statewide legislation that rolled back retirement benefits for new hires.

As the Costa Mesa department shrank, some enforcement was cut, but now officials are looking to test strategies like the bike program as recruitment is on the rise, Manley said.

At full strength, Costa Mesa police would staff 136 sworn officers, officials say. Currently, there are 27 vacancies, according to the department. That's down from 30 in June.

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