From The Daniel Island News
Police exercise pedal power on Daniel Island
By ELIZABETH BUSH
Jan 25, 2007 - 9:10:00 AM
Doug Coates has been spinning his wheels on the job for about six years. Considering what he does for a living, thatís a good thing. Coates is Daniel Islandís first ever bike patrol police officer and is working hard to keep the community safe and secure.
"(My focus is) just getting out on the bike, patrolling, concentrating on the neighborhoods and the business area," said Coates, a private first class officer with the Charleston Police Department based at Daniel Islandís Team 5 headquarters. "Iím also on the bike paths and in the parks, places that it makes it difficult for a police car to get into."
Coates, who mostly works day shifts, has been biking on Daniel Island since December.
"When Chief (Gregory) Mullen decided to initiate a bike patrol over here I was the only one on Team Five who had any experience, so I volunteered and they readily accepted."
The islandís location and miles of paved trails make it the perfect place for a bike patrol, said Coates.
"We have just two main arteries that provide you access to every neighborhoodÖItís relatively self-contained; thereís not a lot of vehicular traffic that you have to be concerned about. Youíve just got a series of neighborhoods and one central business area thatís easily patrolled, so itís just ideal."
Being visible helps show residents and potential criminals that island security is a No.1 priority for police.
"Itís good police-community relations," added Coates, who enjoys bike riding even when heís not at work. "People can see the bike and they can stop and talk to me, tell me whatís going on in the neighborhoods and voice their concerns if they own a businessÖItís much easier to shout out to a police officer on a bike than it is to a police officer in a cruiser with their windows rolled up. It just makes you more accessible."
With that accessibility comes increased risk for police officers, who must take special training to be able to ride the streets on bikes.
"Itís not just riding the bike," said Coates, who also patrols areas as far north as The Peninsula subdivision off Clements Ferry Road. "Itís learning how to safely operate the bike in a variety of situations."
It also requires endurance and a love of the outdoors, two things Coates has in abundance.
"There are worse ways to make a living," laughed Coates. "I just enjoy the physical aspects of it, especially since Iím getting middle aged here! Itís a great way to stay in shape. I like to be physically active. There are a lot of things I like to do. It gets you out from behind the wheel. Itís just a great way to serve the community."
Before coming to Daniel Island, Coates worked in bike patrol in downtown Charleston, where some of his more "memorable" work included making narcotics arrests on the east side and thwarting robbery attempts in parking garages. Fortunately, he said, things are slower on Daniel Island.
"Itís great that itís boring!" added Coates. "I firmly believe that itís our visibility from day one. That serves as a deterrent. It really does. Those that are bent on criminal activityÖare just gonna go someplace else where itís easierÖWe are out there in the neighborhoods, and again, itís not the most exciting way to be a police officer, but itís also rewarding that our stats are so low."
Another reward that Coates is looking forward to is his upcoming retirement from the police force after 25 years of service. In June, he will officially park his police bike in exchange for a little rest and relaxation. The police department is currently taking applications for the new bike patrol trainees who will eventually take his place.
"Itís a good way to end my career, it really is," said Coates, looking off in the distance. "ÖOf all the assignments Iíve had, Iíve done horse patrol, crime scene, various patrols, warrants, this is my favorite assignment."
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