Nishnawbe Aski Police Service is looking for better engagement in the community after four officers completed the Police Cyclist Course.
“It will make a huge difference, just being able to get into the community face-to-face with the youth,” said Cat Lake NAPS Const. Dave Catto during the April 28 training session, explaining that many youth in Cat Lake ride around the community on bikes. “I haven’t really rode a bike in a few years but now that Nishnawbe Aski Police Service has given us this opportunity, it will make a whole difference. We will be on there a lot more and it is good exercise too.
“It will keep us officers in shape.”
NAPS officers will be conducting the bicycle patrols in five communities this summer, Attawapiskat, Cat Lake, Deer Lake, Moose Cree First Nation and North Spirit Lake, as a key community service approach, along with foot patrols, team policing and storefronts/community police stations.
“Bicycle patrol engages the community around policing and crime prevention and focuses on addressing factors such as officer visibility and community isolation,” said Sgt. Jackie George, media relations with NAPS.
“It is important to be upfront and in direct contact with the community.”
The NAPS officers learned patrolling techniques and officer safety techniques from the International Police Mountain Bike Association to ensure they are protected when taking someone into custody while on bike patrol in the community.
“One of the safety techniques taught was instant turns,” George said. “It is a collision avoidance technique. If there is a vehicle to the left of you and the vehicle makes a very quick turn to the right, so in order to avoid a collision instant turn is a technique where you can do an instant turn to the right so you can go with the vehicle instead of hitting it or going over its hood.”
The NAPS bicycles are made for police-specific use by Cannondale, with a bag on the back for carrying equipment and supplies while on patrol in the community and toe clips on the pedals.
“We just added Moose Cree First Nation, North Spirit Lake and Cat Lake to the number of communities that have bicycle patrols by NAPS officers,” George said, explaining the officers involved in the training program have been serving their communities for some time. “The community members will see the officers riding around on their bikes with their safety equipment, so it is a good time of year to remind youngsters to wear protective headgear while on their bikes.”
While last summer’s rainy weather conditions inhibited regular bicycle patrols by the six NAPS officers who were trained, NAPS is looking to provide more patrols in the five communities with trained officers this summer.
“From last year’s experience, the officers were happy to be in more of a person-to-person contact with the community while on patrol,” George said. “This year we do expect to see a lot more patrols and we are definitely going to get some feedback both from the community and the officers on how it is going.
“It is a great program … and I am sure we are going to be expanding to more communities and more officers soon.”
The bicycle patrol program puts the officers in the front line with community members, George said.
“It puts another dimension towards policing in general and community policing, which might result in more community members becoming interested in joining Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service,” George said.
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