I was lured out to the Tri-County Gun Club by four words: bike cops shooting guns. I found myself last Thursday afternoon standing in a gravel lot somewhere on the outskirts of Sherwood, flanked by 15 guys with giant calves and 9mm glocks. Some wore tiny black ankle socks stitched with "police," one had a tattoo of the Punisher, all had very macho bikes—decked out Treks and Cannondales. This was the target practice segment of national Law Enforcement Bicycle Association's annual training.
Here's the first thing I learned: bike cops don't actually shoot guns from their bikes. Like other officers, they rarely shoot their guns at all. But when they do, they can't ready, aim, fire while still pedaling (though that would be AWESOME). Instead they drop their bikes and fire like "normal" police, except that bike cops are often worse shots because their bodies are coursing with adrenaline from riding.
"Accuracy is an issue here - a bazillion shots down range isn't going to do us any good! And rounds down range means citizens who don't need to get involved!" shouted Joe Schilling, the training director. "Stay on the bike until it is no longer a tool for you!"
- Dan Sloan
- Pure Trektosterone.
Portland has only four full time bike cops (including the very polite Robert Pickett), but has 150 officers trained to ride bikes so they can patrol parades or protests.
"It's a really good tool to work on street-level crimes that bring down neighborhood livability: drugs, drinking in public, prostitution. Sometimes people don't want to come up to a police car. But someone on a bike, especially in Portland, is more accessible," explained Portland Police spokeswoman Mary Wheat, herself a former bike cop, as the first officers mounted their bikes for the skills test. They were expected to ride a mile through the dirt around traffic cones, complete two full and complete stops at stop signs ("Because it's important for everyone to obey traffic laws," noted Wheat), throw their bike to the ground and shoot a target all under three minutes and thirty seconds.
Just like in actual life, things in the training didn't go ideally. Just watch the short video.