Shopkeepers waved and said hello as Yakima Police Officers Lyn Thorn and Claudia Padilla patrolled the North Yakima Historic District along North Front Street.
But Thorn and Padilla weren’t driving a police cruiser up the brick-paved street.
Instead the officers, wearing body armor, gun belts, bicycle helmets, shorts and black-and-fluorescent-green shirts, pedaled mountain bikes through the business district.
They’re part of the department’s bike patrol, a program that puts officers out on downtown streets and other nearby areas of concern. The patrols allow officers to reach places they usually can’t easily access in patrol cars – such as people’s hearts and minds.
“I would do it all year long,” said Thorn, who also is a school resource officer at A.C. Davis High School. “I love the different interactions you get. It’s different than being in a patrol car.”
Thorn and Padilla – Washington Middle School’s resource officer – are marking their first summer as full-time members of the bike patrol. They cruise through downtown Yakima during business hours. They’re also out at events downtown, providing an added measure of security.
Police bikes are actually new concept. In the late 19th and early 20th century, police used bicycles to supplement foot patrols. But the bikes eventually fell out of use, as police cars and motorcycles became more common.
Seattle’s police department is credited with reviving the bike patrol in 1987, when four officers were outfitted with mountain bikes to patrol the city. Within the first half-hour on patrol the officers had made three felony drug arrests.
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