FARMINGTON — Peddling uphill on Monterey Avenue near Green Lawn Cemetery on Wednesday afternoon, Farmington police Officer Colt Kalcich spotted a southbound driver without a seat belt and asked him to pull over.

The man obliged.

Kalcich turned around and laid his Trek mountain bicycle on the concrete behind the vehicle. An investigation revealed the passenger in the van had a warrant for his arrest. Another officer arrived to take the suspect into custody.

Then Kalcich got back on his bike and pedaled away.

The Farmington Police Department has four full-time bicycle officers. They primarily patrol Farmington's downtown area and city parks. Occasionally, they can be found biking near Animas Valley Mall or Farmington Lake.

Sgt. Pat Flores said there are two advantages for police officers on bicycles: They are stealthier than other officers and more approachable.

"You can conceal yourself pretty well and then show up on someone," he said.

That stealthiness became dangerous on Monday. Officer Justin Nichols rode up to a suspect who he suspected was smoking marijuana in his car at Berg Park.

Nichols said when the suspect saw him, he ran into Nichols' bicycle and fled, police said.

The bike was badly damaged, but Nichols wasn't injured. The 18-year-old suspect was arrested the next day.

During an-hour-and-a-half patrol Wednesday with The Daily Times, Kalcich and Bryant Cox, another bicycle officer, were flagged down twice. Once was because of an abandoned vehicle near the Civic Center, and the other time was to check on a woman near the probation and parole office in Farmington.

The officers also cycled through Brookhaven Park and a makeshift camp for the homeless south of Broadway Boulevard. They also responded to a call in which a man was trespassing at Mesa View Shopping Center, in addition to the arrest on Monterey Avenue.

Their route through town was about seven miles.

"You get to ride a bicycle for work everyday. That's pretty cool," Kalcich said. "The citizen contact is immense. In a car, nobody really stops you, but on a bike, you get to stop and talk to people -- good and bad."

The officers said they don't mind being asked to stop for mundane questions.

Cox said he thinks he is treated with more respect than a regular officer.

"When I'm in this blue uniform, I've had people tell me I look less intimidating," he said.

The Farmington Police Department buys full-suspension Trek mountain bikes with extra durable tires for its bicycle officers. Each of the bikes costs between $900 and $1,200, Flores said.
Bicycle officers Bryant Cox, left, and Colt Kalcich patrol the streets of Farmington on Wednesday, May 15, 2013.
Bicycle officers Bryant Cox, left, and Colt Kalcich patrol the streets of Farmington on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. (Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times)


In addition to four full-time officers, additional officers have passed the necessary police bicycle certification course and patrol on bikes during special events like parades, Flores said.

The course is 40 hours and most of it is spent on a bike. The department requires officers to ride in town, and they also use the area's mountain biking trails. The officers in training start by riding Kinseys Ridge and then the Seven Sisters trails north of Foothills Boulevard. Then the officers have to successfully ride Alien Run near Aztec, Kalcich said.

"We've had novice riders in the course, and we've had broken arms and legs," he said.

Farmington's four bicycle officers are avid cyclists who ride recreationally on their days off, Kalcich said.

Flores said in the more than 15 years Farmington police has had full-time bicycle officers, none have been badly injured while on duty.

On Wednesday, Kalcich and Cox covered a mix of roads, walking trails, steps and short sections of technical ledges and twists while connecting streets on their patrol.

The officers carry about 30 pounds of extra weight on their utility belts and their bikes.

Much of their arrests are for alcohol and drug offenses and other problems that arise in public places.

"I'm not going to say they don't make felony arrests, but a lot of times they deal with misdemeanors," Flores said.

Kalcich said the biggest worry for bicycle officers is being hit by a car while riding on the road.

Unlike other parts of Farmington where mountain bikers have reported conflicts with people who ride motorized bikes, there is no animosity between Farmington police's motorcycle and bicycle officers, Kalcich said.

"If they say they are on their bike, we just tell them they're not," he said.

 

Ryan Boetel can be reached at rboetel@daily-times.com; 505-564-4644. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel.