It is nearly 5 p.m. and Brentwood Police Officers Russ Miller and Rich Nance start their shift with a brief stop downtown. As the pair bike through First Street, they casually visit with residents and watch the vendors set up during the Downtown Thursdays event, which offers free weekly entertainment to encourage visits to the area.
Over the next few hours things will become hectic as they lead a massive search for a senior with Alzheimer's disease who is later successfully located nearby. They also will later arrest an intoxicated driver who is three times the legal limit and respond to a domestic call where a man was barricaded inside a home threatening suicide. For the last incident, Miller and Nance were able to get within 20 yards of the residence because they were on bikes.
"Our calls for service always go up in the evenings," Miller explained.
By the end of their shift at 2 a.m., Miller and Nance have biked at least 30 miles and patrolled all of the city's 65 parks and multiple rural trails. They also covered the entire downtown area and Brentwood's golf course communities.
"You can get to a burglary sometimes faster than a patrol car," Nance said. "You are mobile and can interact more with the public."
Although the Brentwood Police Department's bicycle patrol unit has been around for more than 13 years, the city is strengthening its presence in this area by recently purchasing six new patrol bicycles to target areas
"Aside from the PR aspect, you can sneak up on someone during a crime easily," said Miller, who is the unit's coordinator. "We have caught a lot of in-progress crimes."
According to Miller, the former fleet of police bikes was not in working order. The new ones are equipped with sirens, emergency lights, police decals, first aid kits and medical trauma bags that can treat gunshot or puncture wounds.
Brentwood City Councilman Joel Bryant said that anytime the police officers can get out of their patrol cars and have one-on-one interactions with the public, it is effective. He added that this makes them more approachable for residents.
"We have an extensive trail system around here and it enables them to get out and get to places that cars can't get to," Bryant said.
Currently, about 23 officers or one-third of the Brentwood police force is trained in bike patrols and more officers will take training classes this month.
"We are hiring young officers with biking experience," Miller said.
Brentwood bike patrols are focused on reducing vandalism and curfew violations in the parks. They can even make traffic stops.
Miller noted that it usually big cities that have active police officers on bikes like Seattle, where Brentwood Police Chief Mark Evenson used to work. According to Evenson, bike patrols provide enhanced visibility for the community and great exercise for officers either during regular on-duty hours or as part of overtime hours.
"One thing I have heard a lot was that the citizens wanted to see more police presence in the parks and trails," he said. "It creates a feeling of safety in knowing that there is that police presence."