CLARKSVILLE, IN (July 19, 2021) – On a warm summer day in Clarksville, you are sure to see plenty of activity along the Ohio River Greenway. The Town of Clarksville finished its portion of the trail in 2019, allowing walkers and bicyclists to travel through Jeffersonville, Clarksville, and New Albany. Between the completion of the Greenway and the recent COVID epidemic, Town officials have noticed a rise in the number of visitors.
“We saw that this was a growing project, not just with the Greenway and Discovery Trail, but also with Origin Park coming in,” said Clarksville Police Chief Mark Palmer. “So we were sitting here thinking what steps can we start taking to make sure we are giving enough coverage of these areas, that are going to be a little bit harder for a normal patrol unit to hit.”
Those steps included the addition of a new bike patrol unit for the Clarksville Police Department. Chief Mark Palmer says the department used funds resulting from narcotics busts … to purchase the equipment needed to start the program. That also meant bringing in special instructors to provide training for his officers.
“We did this on a volunteer process, so if you were interested, you had to take the course,” said Palmer. “Now the course was not easy. I mean you log almost 100 miles on a bicycle, and that’s including getting on, getting off, picking the bike up, carrying it for distance, utilizing the bike not only in a defensive manner but in a proactive manner.”
Chief Palmer says the new bike patrol program has been operating for about 2 months, but that it has been in the works for 6. He says it took time to get the equipment in place and to allow officers to undergo that special training.
“Just a ton of good training we got out of that course to make us all feel more comfortable and make us all safer at the end of the day,” said Bike Patrol Officer Tyler Jackson.
Officer Tyler Jackson was one of the first Clarksville officers to volunteer to join the new bike patrol. He says being on a bicycle has changed the way he interacts with local residents.
“We’re just excited to get out here and interact with the public. It makes it a little more personable being on the bike rather than in a car,” said Jackson.
Interacting with the public on a more regular basis is one of Chef Palmer’s reasons for starting the bike unit. He says while working in a police cruiser, and officer would have an average of 15 to 30 interactions with the public during a shift. That number jumps to 50 to 100 interactions for an officer on a bike.
“It’s just a more user friendly tool for the officers. You know the patrol unit is great, but having the bicycle, you have more contact with the public,” said Palmer.
Officer Jackson says he and his fellow officers have already seen a positive response from the community.
“The amount of waves and thank you and just more people engaging with us has been tremendous.”
As for the bikes the officers use, they are specially outfitted with lights and sirens just like a police cruiser. Bike patrol officers also have all the equipment they would normally carry, even if they were in a car.
“We still wear the protective vest, we still have to wear gun belts, the helmets,” said Palmer. “So it’s a little bit more than your casual ride, but they’ve all enjoyed it. I’ve not heard one bad word about it so far.”
Although the reaction from the public has been positive so far, bike officers understand if some people have to do a double take.
“There’s the jokes you see, you know, ah the bike police you know,” said Jackson. “But for the most part the interaction with the public has all been positive.”
“It takes a lot of people by surprise, including the perpetrator,” said Palmer. “I think they are a little surprised to see officers out on bikes.”
When it comes to his fellow officers, Jackson says the only joke is over who would not be able to join the squad.
“(Laugh) There’s been some jokes on uh who can probably endure it, or not.”
All jokes aside, residents who use Clarksville’s trails and parks on a regular basis say they appreciate the added security, and they are glad the officers are becoming more mobile.
“I think it’s going to make people feel safer if they’re walking or running on the trail,” said Clarksville Resident Joe Trindeitmar. “We see quite a few younger people, girls, uh running, jogging, usually in twos, and I think it will help them feel safer too.”
Keeping the community safe…one ride at a time.