***image1***The bikers present a fairly intimidating image – dark blue uniforms, black wraparound shades, silver helmets and silver badges flashing in the sun. But to hear Airman 1st Class Mike Fletcher tell it, most children are unfazed by it all. “When we ride in front of the commissary, the kids love us,” he said. “It’s like we’re Ronald McDonald.”
Airman Fletcher and his partner, ZP3 Gerd Wessollek, make up the new Ramstein bicycle patrol for the 435th Security Forces Squadron. Though bike patrols have been used intermittently at Ramstein in the past, this incarnation is slated to have a more permanent feel.
“It (the bike patrol) has full command support,” said Master Sgt. Jenny Luttrell, NCOIC, Police Services. “We wanted to interact with the public, let them know we’re out there.”
The two-person bicycle patrol team was formed to cover the school, base exchange, commissary and housing areas. And thus far, Airman Fletcher and ZP3 Wessollek agree that public interaction is the best part.
“I like it a lot,” said Airman Fletcher. “You can interact with people a lot more than in a patrol car. We’re definitely more approachable.”
According to Sergeant Luttrell, the bike patrol is paying dividends beyond positive public relations. A mere 90 minutes after the team officially began operating, they were able to track down a missing minor in the housing area.
“They (members of the bike patrol) are a lot harder to avoid,” she said. “They were able to do the job in a way that a marked sedan would not have been able to do.”
The bicyclists, who were chosen primarily on the basis of their physical fitness levels, cover approximately 10 to 30 kilometers per day, depending on how busy they are. Formed at the beginning of August, the bike patrol is currently slated to be a warm-weather activity, though the possibility of a winter patrol is being explored.
Ultimately, though, Sergeant Luttrell believes the bike patrol venture will be successful on many levels.
“The key is community policing at a different level than we’ve ever been able to provide before,” she said. “I think it’s going to be huge when school starts up again.”