NORFOLK (NNS) -- They are no strangers to protecting others and recently assumed the challenge to conquer a vigorous and demanding one-week training course, to become Norfolk Naval Shipyard's (NNSY) bicycle patrol officers.
Seven NNSY patrol officers recently graduated from the shipyards newest police patrol program, Officers on Bikes.
In less than five days, they learned about their bikes and equipment, each other, rules and safety of the road, and accomplished one of the hardest things to do in order to graduate from the class - ride 100 miles.
"I told them from the very beginning, this is not easy. It is a very rigorous and grueling class," said Gilbert Morris, NNSY Police Captain. "The bike class is a very unique entity of their job. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get through it."
Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Charlai Frazier experienced first-hand how tough the class was on her first ride, which was 21 miles.
"We stopped at an intersection after riding 15 miles and I looked behind me and Petty Officer Frazier was distressed," said Morris. "I asked her if she wanted to quit. She said, 'Freak no! I am not going to quit!' I tried to get her to quit."
"She kept repeating that she was not going to quit," continued Morris." 'I'm going to do it. I'm not quitting. No Captain, I am not going to freaking quit!' I am glad she didn't quit because when we started to ride again, she never gave up and she became one of my strongest riders in the class. To get through this class, you need to have that desire and drive, and be ready to ride numerous miles...every day."
Officers on bicycles must remain physically fit in order to face challenges they don't encounter in a patrol car.
"We learned how to maneuver quickly and safely. Being on a bike gives us the advantage of getting in tight spaces and alleyways at increased speeds," said Frazier. "The bikes make it easier to hear or see crimes happening or find someone trying to hide from us."
Along with learning new ways to fight crimes, the class included training about building comradery with shipyard personnel.
"I really think being on bikes patrolling is going to make a big difference. Our physical presence will be known and it will help people see us in a good light and not always thinking or having a 'they are just out to get me' attitude," said Frazier. "We want to get to know them, know their names and faces, who they are, where they work and their communities. Build that relationship so they know they can trust us and we are there to help and protect them."
"One of the biggest challenges for patrolling officers is how and when they are able to interact with people. It is harder to get to know someone when they are always in a patrol car," said Capt. Paul Amodio, NNSY Base Support Officer. "We are all here together and I really think the bike patrol is going to help diminish the communication barriers and close those gaps between our security forces and shipyard personnel."
Along with building relationships, the new course has become a tool for career development.
"Becoming a qualified bicycle patrol officer is a great stepping stone for them. This class is a perfect example that everyone should be cross-trained in their jobs," explained NNSY Command Master Chief Michael Reese. "It expands professional growth and offers more opportunities in their career choices ahead."
"This course is a great opportunity for us and is something we have talked about doing for a long time. I am happy to see it implemented," said Shipyard Commander Capt. Scott Brown at the graduation. "I'm proud of each of you. I know this program is going to bring great value to you and the [shipyard] workers, increase safety, and strengthen that family tie we have here in the shipyard. I am looking forward to seeing more officers getting qualified and patrolling the bases and communities on bikes."
"When you see them out there, all of the same rules apply if you are being pulled over by an officer in a patrol car or on a patrol bicycle. They are both equipped with gear, lights, and sirens. The only thing that has really changed is there will be more of us out there on bikes," said Morris. "In the end, we want to get to know you, and we are always here to protect and serve."
If you are active duty with more than 18 months left on your tour in the NNSY precinct or a NNSY civilian police officer who is patrol qualified, and interested in a future Officers on Bikes course, contact Capt. Morris at 757-396-0515.
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from Norfolk Naval Shipyard, visit www.navy.mil/local/nnsy/.