About 300 Cleveland bicycle officers are helping control the sometimes-raucous crowds outside the Republican National Convention using tactics learned from the Seattle Police Department, says the Seattle Times. In Cleveland, officers on bicycles are racing ahead of marchers and using their bikes to form makeshift barricades to separate opposing groups, lessons learned firsthand during Seattle’s May Day demonstrations. Seattle police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said Cleveland officers visited Seattle to observe how bicycles were used in crowd control on May Day, which ended with nine arrests and five injured officers after a peaceful march devolved into a violent demonstration.
Since 2012, Seattle Police Department has increased its use of bikes for crowd control. Whitcomb, who worked bike patrol for two years, said Seattle police each year encounter scores of demonstrations. The challenge of crowd management comes from the possibility that demonstrations shift and become violent. “You show up in one set of gear, and in an instant, you put on protective pads,” Whitcomb said. He said bikes allow officers to move quickly and be more visible, fostering better community interaction. Bike officers sometimes keep their distance from crowds, while other times they act as escorts or shields that keep demonstrators from other members of the public or property. Early reviews of bicycle cops in Cleveland appear mostly positive. “Every officer seems to know how they are supposed to work and bicycles are way better than weapons or even billy clubs,” Christine Link of the American Civil Liberties Union in Ohio told the Los Angeles Times.