Patrolling on two wheels in East Troy
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East Troy Deputy Police Chief Jeremy Swendrowski patrols on a Segway during a bicycling event in East Troy last week. The East Troy Police Department has found the Segways advantageous in community policing. Terry Mayer photo.
On patrol last weekend, East Troy Deputy Police Chief Jeremy Swendrowski rolled through the village’s historic downtown square during the East Troy Cycling Classic race, keeping an eye on the crowds.
But Swendrowski wasn’t on a bike himself—or even in a squad car. He was patrolling on a Segway, the two-wheeled battery-powered vehicle its manufacturer dubs “a personal transporter.”
“I’m more accessible in a Segway than I am in a squad car,” Swendrowski said. “People obviously notice it right away and are very interested in it. They come up to me and start talking about it, and from there, they’re more willing to talk about other things, like concerns in their neighborhoods.”
He and East Troy Police Chief Alan Boyes discussed getting a Segway for the department when a Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance grant became available, and used the funding to pay for one last August.
It was the grant that clinched the deal on the Segway. At a cost of over $7,000, Swendrowski acknowledged the vehicle is too pricey a purchase for many smaller police departments, especially in a budget-squeezing economy.
Swendrowski is the designated Segway driver for the department. He completed a two-hour training session that taught him how to balance on the vehicle and the basics of getting around: tilting forward to move ahead, and leaning back slightly to slow down and stop. Within a few minutes, he said, he felt comfortable enough to ride.
The X2 model, with its deeply treaded tires, is what the deputy chief terms an urban off-road vehicle. He’s used it to patrol local parks, baseball games and special events on the square, like the bike race.
“I get around faster than I would on foot patrol and because I’m higher up on a platform, I can see over the crowds,” he said.
Swendrowski said he knows police departments in bigger cities in Florida and New Mexico patrol regularly on Segways year-round. But Segways, he says, are not designed to handle winters in Wisconsin.
“The last time I used the Segway last year was at Halloween, when I was riding out there while the kids were trick or treating,” he said. “The parents thought it was great.”
The X2 model—one of two Segway designs for patrolling—can be customized for police use with reflective shields emblazoned with “police” or “security,” and even flashing lights.
At a maximum speed of 12.5 mph, and with 24 miles to a single charge, a Segway isn’t going to be used in police chases. But as a way to have a visible police presence in the village, Swendrowski thinks it’s ideal.
“A lot of police departments are concentrating on community policing,” he said. “This is a great tool for that.”