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Could you pass the Salt Lake City bike squad test?

Published September 18, 2013 12:25 pm

Public safety • Cops make their way past obstacles for a shot at two-wheeled patrol.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The world looks different from the back of a bicycle.

You see more of it. That was Detective Rick Wall's experience in the five years he spent on the Salt Lake City police bike squad. And Miles Southworth, a young police officer approaching his second year on the force, hopes it will be his, too.

Wall watched as Southward and 13 other Salt Lake City police officers tried out Wednesday morning to make the squad. Along for the ride were four Utah Transit Authority officers who were training to do bike patrols for their agency.

The officers rode up and down the stairs outside EnergySolutions Arena, then down a longer flight outside Abravanel Hall, as well as over a gap and up a steep grassy hill at the concert hall, before riding through cones atop the nearby Wells Fargo parking terrace.

"It gives us a list of eligible candidates," Wall said. They take anywhere from two to six officers each year, all of them having spent at least about two years in the department. They also help train the UTA officers.

Once they make the squad, officers receive a department-issued Giant-brand mountain bike — the squad also goes into the foothills — along with the helmet and uniform.

The squad, made up of four teams of about six people, patrols the city from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m., said department spokeswoman Lara Jones.

Besides that, they are also used in special assignments like crowd control at parades, Wall said. An officer sees a lot from a bicycle that he or she could miss from a patrol car. The officer also becomes more approachable, Wall said.

That openness appeals to Southworth, who is attracted to the community-oriented approach. Doing the same job, but outside, is an exciting prospect, too.

A biker, but not an avid one, Southworth learned a lot of new techniques at the Wednesday exercise.

"It's all been good. It's all been fun," he said.

Last June, Salt Lake City police hosted another training exercise for 10 candidates interested in bike patrol, that time at Sugar House Park. Officers rode their bicycles through an obstacle course, practiced chasing a running suspect and maneuvering with a fellow officer to trap a fleeing suspect.

mmcfall@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mikeypanda