Patterson police to use Segways to build community relationships

PATTERSON, La. -- A pair of Segway PT’s purchased two months ago has been added to the Patterson Police Department’s tools to protect the community and enhance the department’s attempt to increase positive relationships between citizens and police.

“We want to bridge that divide between law enforcement and police,” Patterson Police Chief Patrick LaSalle said. “You can judge the productivity of a police department by citizen participation.”

LaSalle said that he plans to use the personal transport (thus the PT in the model name) vehicles as complements of the bicycle patrol, motorcycle and four-wheelers, in allowing officers more face time with Patterson residents. He wants his officers to look beyond typical law enforcement roles and return to tried and true strategies from an era when the police and community worked together as partners, without an adversarial relationship.

“When I was a kid,” LaSalle reflected, “we were told to look for a policeman when you needed help.” That is the attitude he wants to cultivate in Patterson. “We have a wonderful community and a citizen-friendly police department,” he said as he explained he wants to build on and expand that relationship. The relationship pays dividends in many ways, including when police seek to solve crimes that have occurred.

The police chief expects to deploy the Segway’s throughout Patterson in a variety of ways including policing during festivals and parades. Currently they are primarily used around the Patterson Junior High School campus.

The two-wheel battery-operated units provide quick response time and increased mobility on the campus.

“They allow accessibility to areas that we normally couldn’t patrol” in a squad car, the chief explained.

The unique devices often start friendly conversations between officers and students, according to LaSalle. He expects the same results as the vehicles begin to patrol the rest of the city.

Officers Mike Sears and David Robertson have been trained on the vehicles. They will be utilized as instructors in two-week training courses. The rest of the Patterson Police Department will go through the training in pairs, according to the police chief.

LaSalle said the Segways cost about $9,000 each. He credits Mayor Rodney Grogan and the City Council with looking forward at ways to utilize new technology in serving the needs of the city. That kind of vision allows the purchase and use of equipment like these vehicles, he said.

LaSalle points out that the zero-emissions vehicles are environmentally friendly and that a single charge allows the vehicle to be driven six hours.

Segway’s website says that each Segway PT comes with two operational settings, “beginner” and “standard.” Beginner setting is set to 6 mph and the standard setting is set to 12.5 mph, which is roughly equal to a 5-minute mile.

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