BREMERTON — In April, the Bremerton Police Department set up a new kind of patrol for the city, one that included officers Derek Ejda and Brandon Greenhill on bicycles.
“There’s a lot of freedom with doing it,” Ejda said. “We kind of get a lot of opportunities to deal with crimes you don’t get to deal with when you’re in a patrol car.”
“We see different kinds of calls,” Greenhill added. “We can get to places faster during certain hours of the day, mainly in the afternoon. We obviously see violations you won’t see in a car … because you have to pay attention to the road.”
The team makes up a full-time patrol, focusing in the downtown business area, neighborhoods, parks and east Bremerton. Bremerton Police Chief Steven Strachan said they frequent the Callow Avenue area as well as the marina and boardwalk.
“Because they have a consistent ‘beat,’ or area, they get to know the players and the problems, and can provide a consistent patrol for people who are doing things that cause problems for our neighborhoods,” Strachan said.
Ejda said that unlike patrolling in a car, they “have a constant presence.”
“We’re always in an area, we’re not just suddenly on the other side of the city,” he said. “We’ll just be there, dealing with it all day, every day.”
Ejda and Greenhill said that as bicycle patrol officers, they have the opportunity to spot and address crimes traditional patrol officers wouldn’t; their continued presence in an area serves as a deterrent for many things like trespassing and disorderly conduct.
“We can get places faster, go places cars can’t go and we’re a lot quieter,” Greenhill said.
Ejda added, “It’s proactive instead of reactive. We’re already there, and a lot of times we’re stopping that activity because they know we’re there.”
Because the consistent beat enables officers to know the “players” in the area really well, Strachan added that arrest warrants can be followed through on more quickly thanbefore.
“This has a huge effect in increasing the respect and effectiveness of the system for a group that often plays games and feels that there is no consequence to their law-breaking behaviors,” Strachan said.
Generally speaking, public response to this new style of patrol in Bremerton has been largely positive.
“We don’t hear anything negative from the community who’s interested in seeing problems get dealt with,” Ejda said. “Violators … some of them like what we’re doing, but others get frustrated with us because we’re dealing with things that were difficult to manage for a long time.”
Greenhill said, “It just shows the presence. It keeps the crime down, people acknowledge we can be around when they don’t see us.”
Strachan said that many residents and business owners have mentioned their appreciation for the bicycle officers’ presence.
“The officers really enjoy the chance to interact with the public,” Strachan said, “especially those who are living and growing a business here and helping our community deal with public-safety problems. We have also found the overall number of calls and crimes have gone down since the bike officers have been working consistently.”
Currently Ejda and Greenhill make up the only full-time bike patrol team in the Bremerton Police Department, but Strachan said “Eventually we would like to have two full-time bike teams.”
And with brisk fall right around the corner and winter coming right behind it, there are currently no plans for the patrols to cease: Greenhill said they’ve already “talked about getting geared up for the winter.”
“When it’s not safe to be on bikes, we won’t do it … (but) I can speak from experience: even in the wintertime I’ve been out on bikes,” Greenhill said.
“It’s a continuation of that proactive stuff,” Ejda said. “We see problems we didn’t even know about. We see crimes we had an idea of, but now we know (for sure). We’ll continue to address that in winter.”
Ultimately, though, Ejda reminds that while they may have a stronger, continued presence in Bremerton and are able to spot more of what’s going on, they are still “a product of calls most of the time.”
“We are improving on seeing crime, being proactive, but we still want that feedback, and that’s what we’re hoping to get from the community,” Ejda said, “what they see and what they want from us.”
Michelle Beahm can be reached at email@example.com.