Bikes as weapons (UPDATED)

Bikes have been used by police departments as potentially-lethal weapons these past two weeks all across the USA. In fact, the very last photos of May’s National Bike Month that most people saw were of bikes being used in that way. Many bike riders, in particular, are asking bike manufacturers such as Trek, Fuji, and Haro (the most common suppliers to police departments) to suspend sales for this purpose. As reported in this Forbes article, Fuji ‘s USA distributor suspended sales to police departments on June 5. (You can also see examples of bikes as weapons in that article.)

My local police department (in a 12-square-mile metro-Atlanta suburb-city of 48,000 citizens) has trained its officers on bike skills (pictured above/see my post about that here) and they have also been trained on bike law. I do not know if using a bike as a weapon was part of their training.  I do want to say that there was a peaceful protest in front of city hall this past week where the only people on bikes were this family (and me). My local police department is nationally acclaimed and locally beloved, and my hope is that the answers to the questions I ask below continue to support that reputation.

Here’s the thing. I have never, not once since they had the training shown in this photo, seen them riding a bike around my suburb-city, including after it became the first in the southeastern USA with a Vulnerable Road User ordinance (although I did hear that two officers on bikes accompanied a family bike ride for two hours on one day). (Note: I’ve been riding all over my city about ten miles every day for the past twelve weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic). Why then do they have these bikes, and how are they intending to use them?

These are questions that must be asked, and I will do so via email to city hall (despite the fact that I received zero email replies to my last email, asking for temporary safe-access-for-all during the pandemic, although I was told elsewhere by the mayor and one city councilor that there was no time, priority, or resources to do so).

Please note my local police department, along with those in cities small and large throughout the USA, may have become increasingly militarized over the past ten years. After clearly defining the role of the bicycle for police officers, let’s then decrease funding for militarization of our police force, if this is happening, and reinvest those dollars into making our community safer in other ways.

FYI, I was appointed by city hall to serve on the very first Comprehensive Land Use Steering Committee in this city and helped ensure that safe-access-for-all was baked into its very DNA (at least in plans on the shelves). We shouldn’t have to beg for it.

___

UPDATE: Here is my email. 

Good morning, Mayor and City Council. Thank you all for what you are doing during these challenging times. It matters. You matter. I do have a concern I’d like to voice, however.

I know the Dunwoody Police Department is nationally acclaimed and locally beloved, and rightly so. Recent nationwide events, however, require my asking of two questions:

1. I know our local police department received training in bike skills and bike law (see my post about that here, with photo, if interested). Do we have a policy that bikes cannot be used as weapons against citizens protesting peacefully? This use of bikes as weapons against peaceful protestors has been occurring nationwide (see Forbes article, with visuals and video, here).

2. I have noticed the increased militarization of our police department since the founding of the city, and subsequent funding increases to support that. This concerns me. I received zero email responses to my previous email to you on March 20, 2020* requesting temporary safe-access-for-all* during the COVID-19 pandemic (reprinted here) but was told elsewhere by two of you that there was no time, priority, or resources to do so. I would like to respectfully request a reduction in funding of militarization of the Dunwoody Police Department and an increase in providing safety in other ways in our community, such as to those using bikes for the myriad positive, life-affirming reasons they are intended.
Trust the journey,
Pattie Baker
* unless I somehow missed it — if so, I apologize 
_____
UPDATE 2: Here are the responses I received that same afternoon from a (1) city councilor, (2) the chief of police, and (3) the city manager. Bottom line? There is no policy about not using bikes as weapons against peaceful protestors, but no intention to do so; and the only apparent “militarization” is participation in a multi-city SWAT team that is deployed in specific circumstances about 5-10 times per year. I will try to view the police presentation on June 15, and  I hope my asking of the questions makes some small difference somehow.

(1)

Good Sunday Afternoon Patti,

I have copied Chief on this email as well as Eric and Jay so they can also weigh in.

Chief would be the expert to answer your questions in more detail, but I will answer from my knowledge.

    1. Bikes used as weapons – Police are trained to use their bikes as a barrier between themselves for their safety and crowd activity. I have never heard of a police officer using a bike as a weapon, unless it was truly for self-defense. Your Forbes pictures below don’t tell the whole story.
    2. Militarization of our Dunwoody PD:  I am not sure what you are talking about other than our involvement with North Metro Swat team:

The North Metro SWAT Team was founded in 2009. This Special Weapons and Tactics team consists of officers from the Sandy Springs Police Department, Dunwoody Police Department, Johns Creek Police Department, and Brookhaven Police Department. With the combined strength of four cities, the North Metro SWAT team allows for swift and complete response to tactical situations as well as high-risk warrant response to over 280,000 citizens. The North Metro SWAT officers have a working knowledge of each city through extensive combined training which averages 16 hours per month. The North Metro SWAT Team also includes Tactical Medics along with a Crisis Negotiation Team and Logistics team comprised of officers from each of the four cities. Equipped with specialized training and equipment, the North Metro SWAT can respond to:

    • Hostage rescues
    • Service of high-risk arrest and search warrants
    • Barricaded suspects
    • Engagement of heavily armed criminals
    • Dignitary protection
    • Active assailant incidents

 

Thanks to Tom Lambert; we have passed the Vulnerable Road User Ordinance. Council is also in the process of clarifying language about bikes on sidewalks in our city. (To be voted on June 15th Council Meeting)

Both of these additions will help many to understand the rules and regs regarding bikes here in Dunwoody; including our Dunwoody PD.

Chief Grogan will be addressing council at our June 15th virtual meeting – please tune in for that.

Thank you Patti for your involvement and your concern for our city. I truly appreciate everything you do.

Have a great Sunday

Pam

Pam Tallmadge

Dunwoody City Council

District 1 Post 1

770.354.7653

Pam.tallmadge@dunwoodyga.gov

(2)

Patti,

Thanks so much for your inquiry.  I will do my best to add to Pam’s comments.

1.    We do not have a policy that prohibits bicycles being used that way against peaceful protestors.  We certainly would not use any force against “peaceful” protestors.  However, it appears that some of the incidents in the Forbes article and others I have found online were not incidents involving peaceful protestors.

As Pam described, bicycles are typically used as a barrier.  However, we have not had to use them in this way in Dunwoody.  If force became necessary because of the actions of others, our officers would follow our use of force policy.  Using bicycles are not in that policy.

2.    ​I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “militarization of the police” in this email.  You haven’t provided any details for me to understand your point of view.  This phrase is used a lot and became wildly popular after Ferguson.  In that context, many people were talking about excess military equipment that has been converted to police use.  If that is what you are talking about, I can assure you we do not have any excess military equipment.

Our SWAT team serves four cities and responds to many serious crimes requiring specialized training and equipment.  Fortunately, they typically are only called out 5-10 times a year.  Yet, when they are called out, the equipment and training they have can keep them and others safe.

If you have specific questions about any of their equipment, I would be happy to provide a response.

Have a great day.

Chief Grogan

(3)

I concur with the Chief’s comments.

Dunwoody is fortunate to have one of the most experienced Police command staff personnel in the region.  I believe our Police Department has excellent policies in all areas of their Department.

I too look forward to the Chief’s presentation on June 15.

Sincerely,

Eric Linton, ICMA-CM, AICP

City Manager

City of Dunwoody

4800 Ashford Dunwoody Road

Dunwoody, Georgia 30338

P 678.382.6704
F 678-533-0790

eric.linton@dunwoodyga.gov

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