Merriam police officers now have their own fleet of bicycles.
Chief Michael Daniels said the Merriam Police Department used $8,000 of drug forfeiture money to purchase four bicycles to be used by officers. Each bicycle is fully equipped with sirens, lights and other necessary tools for patrolling the streets.
Merriam had two officers 20 years ago who patrolled on bicycles, but expenses and lack of interest eventually led the city to drop the program, Daniels said. Police officers in Mission and Prairie Village have launched similar bicycle programs over the past couple years.
The Olathe Police Department recently offered a weeklong training program for Merriam patrol officers to get accustomed to their new patrol vehicles. After training, police officers know how to maximize use of the bicycles, such as mounting and dismounting quickly and safely, and riding up and down staircases.
Patrol officers on bicycles will patrol the city’s streamway trails and places officers can’t access with a patrol car.
“With the bicycle, it’s not about going fast, it’s about not being seen,” Daniels said. “People don’t expect to see officers on bicycles, so they can get right up close to people doing things they’re not supposed to before they realize that it’s a cop on a bicycle.”
Another primary focus of the new bicycle program is to police the streets in a more accessible way. Merriam police officers patrolling events such as the Turkey Creek Festival or Merriam Drive Live will have more maneuverability through crowds.
At the same time, people will hopefully find police officers on bicycles to be more accessible and approachable.
Some of Daniels’s officers expressed interest a few years ago to start the bicycle program, but Daniels wanted to wait until the department had enough drug forfeiture money to fund the purchases. That way, Merriam taxpayers wouldn’t be paying for it.
“It’s all about community policing,” Daniels said. “Our hope is that people will be more comfortable contacting officers on bicycles than they are in a patrol car.”
Merriam police will be patrolling on bicycles at upcoming city events, including Funday Sunday Food Trucks on Sept. 16 and Merriam Drive Live on Oct. 6, both located at Merriam Marketplace.