Police ‘segway’ into use of transportation of the future
Segways are intended to help officers respond to crime faster.
Feb. 17, 2012
The Columbia Police Department has been developing its Downtown Unit for the past three years with a method that puts a new spin on things — the Segway.
Segways were first introduced to the police department in 2008. The machines initially cost between $3,000 and $5,000. Some of the vehicles came from donations, including a donation by the Columbia Police Foundation and the Segway of Mid-Missouri Company in 2006, according to a City Council resolution.
The Segways are a part of the Downtown Unit, which was formed in 2009 specifically to enforce the law at establishments typically high in crime, including bars and restaurants. The unit uses a strategy called the problem-oriented philosophy which, according to Officer Kim German, takes a closer look into why certain issues are occurring and takes a more proactive approach to law enforcement.
“The department now implements a ‘new school’ policy where no physical force will be used if not necessary, compared to the more physical approach that was used previously,” she said.
German, who is one of the officers heading up the Segway program, also said Segways can cut police travel time in half when responding to emergencies.
The city’s perception of the police has changed because of the Segways, German said.
“People think when they look at the blue shirts and when we’re on the Segways that we’re not as serious about our jobs,” she said. “The machines don’t make us any less of a police officer, but there can be a lack of police perception when we’re patrolling on them.”
German also said the Segways are a good promotional vehicle, causing residents to be more comfortable with speaking to the police. They are also effective in handling congested crowds.
“People feel that they can come and talk to policemen, and it makes them feel that we are approachable,” she said. “It also helps with crowd control and makes the crowd disperse so others can get through.”
German said she hopes more people will interact with the police department, whether it’s talking to them from their Segways or participating in a ridealong.
“I think if people started interacting with our officers, they will see that they are here to do their jobs because they love doing what they do for a living,” she said.