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Community police officer takes to (bicycle) wheels
September 7, 1998

Officer Robert Wright patrolled campus on foot last year, but now he's switching gears.

Sporting a black knit shirt, black shorts and a helmet, Wright pedals around campus on a bicycle to ensure the safety of the University community.

Wright has been the University's primary bicycle patrol officer since July. He is a community police officer who, for the last year, has patrolled primarily on foot providing safety in and around residence halls.

The foot patrol was so successful, that the bicycle patrol was introduced by the Division of Public Safety to augment it. "Bob will be able to do his job more quickly and efficiently, while still maintaining the personal contact with the community that is lost when officers are in cruisers," says Major Ronald Blicher.

Blicher stresses the importance of personal contact between the police and the community. "Either on foot or bicycle, Bob is more approachable than he would be behind the wheel. Cruiser patrol is a necessary part of police work, but we have identified the importance of the contact and service that Bob Wright provides," Blicher says.

People stop him to talk about legal matters, ask for directions, get parking information, or are simply curious about his bicycle, one of two specially designed mountain bikes made by Smith & Wesson. "Maybe it's their first time speaking to an officer," he says. Wright knows people by their first names, and he's not surprised when people call him Officer Bob and Officer Friendly. Wright says he enjoys the greetings and chats that go along with the job. "If people see me speaking to someone, it makes others feel freer to approach me."

Blicher says that as the University moves toward creating pedestrian areas in the center of campus, bicycle patrol has become more important as a way to provide effective service.

Wright wears a shirt with reflective markings on the sleeves and the word Police in reflective letters on the back. His badge is sewn onto the shirt. He sports a lightweight belt system and special shoes. The uniform is specially designed for the more rigorous exercise he gets while on the bike.

Wright, who patrols the campus during the afternoon and evening, took a three-day police training course for bicycle patrol. He will take further training this month. Another police officer has also been trained in bicycle patrol and will ride as long as staffing allows.

One of the future goals of the Division of Public Safety is to increase the number of police officers who work in and around residence halls, says Police Chief and Public Safety Director Robert S. Hudd. "We want the officers to be more involved with students. It's the protection and service to our 'neighborhoods'.

Sherry Fisher