One man pushes another man. The man who was pushed falls to the ground, but he doesn’t think of calling the police– he’s not carrying a cell phone anyway.
But then he sees two police officers patrolling on bicycles, so he decides to flag them down. He tells the officers he would have normally let it go, but since they were there, he decided to report the incident. The officers arrest the perpetrator for outstanding warrants.
It’s bicycle patrols like this that enable the Signal Hill Police Department to connect more with the community.
“Ever since I’ve gotten into bike detail, I’ve noticed a positive difference…it makes us more approachable versus a car,” said Detective Alex Gabaldón, one of the patrolling officers that day, April 22. “I think we make a much greater connection with the community when we’re out there with bikes versus patrol [cars].”
The department was able to do more of this community outreach when, in celebration of Earth Day, on April 22, it deployed two patrol officers on bicycles instead of in cars.
“This is just an opportunity for us to participate in Earth Day and just deliver a different kind of police service,” Operations Lt. Ron Sagmit said. “By riding bicycles as opposed to driving cars, we’re able to reduce our carbon footprint for the day, which is consistent with the City’s mission of being environmentally friendly.”
For this, the first year of the event, two officers were sent out on bikes April 20 in addition to two other officers on April 22, curbing four police cars, Sagmit said, adding that the department only uses the bicycles for certain events.
There are many cases in which people approach the bicycling officers about problems that they haven’t reported, said Officer Brandon Moulton, who was on patrol with Gabaldón.
“Most people are so polite that they don’t call us about issues they’re having because they assume Signal Hill has the same issues that Long Beach has, which it doesn’t,” said Moulton, a three-year veteran of the department. “So they come up and they approach us because we’re right there on the bikes, and we usually say ‘hi,’ give stickers to the kids…and while we’re talking to them with that they’re like, ‘Hey, this is an issue we’ve got going on.’”
Moulton added that almost every case they encountered that day involved someone flagging them down.
There are some disadvantages to using bicycles, however, such as having to bike far if there’s an incident at the opposite part of the city, and having to call a patrol car to take people into the station, Moulton said.
But the bicycles might have proved useful when the two officers, who happened to be in the area, were the first responders to an accident that afternoon in the parking lot of a Food 4 Less grocery store on Willow Street. Two elderly women, one on a motorized scooter and one walking alongside her, were hit by a car and then flung to the ground, witness Melissa DeMas said.
“The fact that [the officers] were immediately there was nice, because by the time I called 9-1-1, within 30 seconds of it happening, they had already radioed in,” said DeMas, a Long Beach resident who frequently shops in Signal Hill.
One of the women had a cut on her foot, and the other one likely had a dislocated shoulder, but both were conscious and in stable condition, Gabaldón said. They were both taken away in ambulances.
When asked about the police being on bikes for Earth Day, DeMas was skeptical of their usefulness, saying that it’s more dangerous for them and that they couldn’t respond as quickly.
Gabaldón responded by highlighting the fact that bicycles can sometimes be quicker than cars.
“If we were in the patrol car, it would probably take us more time to get here because we have to deal with traffic, whereas with bicycles you can maneuver around obstacles,” he said. “And we got here really quick– we were the first ones at the scene.”