And the wheels go round
One thing Young would like to see change is the number of officers available for regular bicycle and foot patrol.
“I was a bicycle officer,” Young recalled. “I believe that was the best position on the police department at the time I was hired. I was a bicycle officer back in the days of the cruising around Diamond Park. I was visible.”
So was Tautin, a college student at the time who spent 15 weeks with Young on the bicycle from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. as an intern.
“I liked it,” Tautin said. “I’m a people person and I liked that you had that interaction. It was nothing to see someone on the sidewalk — they wave, you hit the brakes and you stop and talk to them. Kids loved it. I used to talk to the kids. If people had a problem, you’re very accessible.”
Accessibility, he added, was instant. “It’s easy to spin around — if I heard something, I could just spin around.”
One of the things Tautin learned back in his intern days was that even answering calls can be faster on a bike. “Half the time we’d beat the cars to the calls just because we could back alley, we could jump on the sidewalks, get around traffic. I loved it. I even liked foot patrol for the same reason. You’d be downtown. You’d meet business owners. Our problem now, though, is scheduling. We have to make sure we have enough people in the cars.”
With budget constraints having kept the department’s complement of officers at 21 — down one from the 2009 level — and two replacements yet to be hired, things have been tight.
“We have enough trouble trying to fill the schedule now,” Tautin said. “If these two officers are replaced, it will help, but we had a really, really hard time, even this summer, getting someone on the bike.”
Young tries to be a positive role model himself — and he’s trying to push a positive role for the police department.
“That’s where the bicycle guy comes in,” he said, “because how many people actually see the police — with two guys in the police car answering between 15 and 20 calls and sometimes 30 — during a day shift? How many times do you get to talk to a police officer other than him pulling you over or about an incident where someone stole something from you or something?
“If you’re on a bicycle and someone who’s talking to you forgets you’re in a uniform, they’re starting to realize that you’re still a person,” Young added. “I’m different from nobody else. When I put the uniform on, I’m attempting — and I believe this police department as a whole is attempting — to do the right thing.”
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.