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Keep an eye out for cops on two wheels

This summer might bring something you've seldom seen before in Cloquet -- "mounted" police officers on wheels. According to Cloquet Police Chief Steve Stracek, a new initiative of the Police Department this spring is to obtain four to six bicycle...

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Duluth bike patrol officers conduct the trail ride portion of their bike certification training along a portion of the Munger Trail. The Cloquet Police will be trained by Officers Rob Hurst and Nick Lepak of the Duluth Police Department, both of whom are certified instructors. Contributed photo

This summer might bring something you've seldom seen before in Cloquet - "mounted" police officers on wheels.

According to Cloquet Police Chief Steve Stracek, a new initiative of the Police Department this spring is to obtain four to six bicycles and provide officer bicycle training with an eye toward patrolling the neighborhoods in a more "up close and personal" fashion.

"This really gets officers out face to face with the public," said Stracek. "It gives both officers and community residents a better opportunity for contact than just during 911 calls."

Stracek explained that most people only see officers as they drive around in their squad cars, but he thinks the opportunity to actually put cops on the street is one that will improve both community relations and safety.

"Traveling by bicycle will get us out there and slow us down a bit," he said. "This way we can also be a little 'quieter' at what we do, get out into the parks and trails where we aren't spending a lot of time right now, and watch to make certain we keep things safe."

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Stracek said Detective Darren Berg once spent a considerable amount of duty time patrolling around undercover by bicycle, getting back into dark alleys at night time and keeping a closer eye on what was going on. He said the method was an effective one - and a healthy one for officers who normally spend much of their time patrolling in a squad car or sitting behind a desk.

He said thus far six officers have expressed interest in being trained for the bicycle patrol program, and the department's plans are to purchase at least four bicycles, though he is hoping to find some way to come up with supplemental funding to purchase more.

Additional expenses will be incurred with training and uniform bicycle clothing, but other than that the program is expected to be relatively low maintenance.

Bicycle patrol officers will likely be dispatched only when enough staffing is available to put officers out in the field in squad cars as well, in order to respond to emergency calls.

Stracek added while that some bicycle patrol officers may be assigned to specific areas, particularly problem areas, others will be sent on general patrol in various areas of the city. During times of particular need, such as the Fourth of July, he said bicycle patrol officers should come in handy in monitoring crowds.

If all goes well, Stracek hopes the officers will be bike-certified in May or early June, with an eye toward having them out in the neighborhoods by summer.

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The latest class of the Duluth Bike Patrol poses for a group photo after completing their certification. Contributed photo

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