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Snapshot: Bike cop serves community through enforcement, public relations
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Snapshot: Bike cop serves community through enforcement, public relations

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Back in the day, you might have seen Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey racing a fixed-gear track bike on the Washington Bowl Velodrome. Now you might see Sheskey patrolling on a bicycle in the city of Kenosha as part of the KPD’s bike unit. Sheskey has been a police officer with the city for six and a half years and with the UW-Parkside Police Department for three years before that. Sheskey, who works the second shift, has ridden with the bike unit for two years. About 20 officers ride bicycles among the three shifts.

Q: Have you always wanted to go into law enforcement?

A: Yes, for the most part. My grandfather actually worked for the city for 33 years.

Q: Is it easier for people to come up and talk to you when you’re riding on a bike?

A: Absolutely. It kind of takes the whole car away, obviously; you don’t have the windows rolled up. People wave us down for everything, from talking about their problems in the neighborhood to just to say hi and talk about the bikes. It definitely gets us out a lot more.

Q: So you usually ride in tandem, two officers?

A: Yes.

Q: What kind of bike do you end up riding?

A: We have mountain bikes. They’re made by KHS (and have) front suspension.

Q: Riding on nobbies, or slicks?

A: They’re kind of like a hybrid tire, so they have smaller knobbies; some of them are more like a road tire in the middle with knobbies on the sides.

Q: Do you end up being able to customize it for yourself, like put on a seat that you may be more comfortable on?

A: Yes, to a point. They’ll let the guys change out the seats if they want to. Pretty much everything else just comes with the bike.

Q: So what are some of the advantages to being out on the bike?

A: You still have to take calls, but you get to be more proactive and kind of decide what direction you want to go. If you want to do more enforcement, you can do that. If you want to do more public relations — go down to the lake, stop out and talk with the people — you can choose to do that as well. Most guys kind of do a mix. We’ll have our kind of problem areas that we have to pay more attention to, so we’ll make it a point to get over there, then make it a point to get down by the lake, especially on the nicer days, and talk with people.

Q: So you must have been out for the Tall Ships, or the pop-up beer garden on Simmons Island?

A: For every special event down on the lake, we try to have at least two officers on bikes get to them.

Q: Well, I would think that with traffic, like on the Fourth, you’d be able to get places a little bit quicker.

A: Absolutely. Actually, on the Fourth of July, it’s a perfect example. Any calls that happen east of Sheridan Road are handled completely by the bike unit, just because you can’t get squads down there, unless it’s something serious. For any festival really, the bikes, they can get through a crowd of people quite quickly and efficiently and handle pretty much anything an officer in a squad could.

Q: Do you ride when you’re not at work?

A: I do. I actually raced while in high school. I rode on the velodrome. Now, I just kind of do it for fun, mountain biking.

Q: Yeah, that velodrome stuff is hard. No brakes!

A: (Laughs) But they’re fixed-gear bikes, so nobody can slam on the brakes because nobody has brakes, so it’s actually a lot safer than road riding. Because, in road riding, part of the danger of crashing comes with newer riders, riders that just aren’t as confident, get nervous and slam on the brakes, rather than keep their speed. And that will cause an accident a lot of times. Whereas, on the velodrome, you can’t.

Q: How many years did you race there?

A: I only raced on the track for two; I raced on the road for about six.

Q: What were your events on the road? Like criteria?

A: Crits. I only did two road races, but mostly crits, a lot of Superweek and a couple races out of state.

Q: High average speeds on those, I bet.

A: It depends on the race, but yes. Right around 25 in the junior races, at least. In the pro races, it’s a lot more. … It was fun. Yeah, exercise. I like riding because it’s the only thing I know that you can do where you sit down and eat and drink at the same time. And the scenery constantly changes, so if you get bored, just ride somewhere different.

Q: So what happens when you’re on patrol and it rains? Do you don rain gear, or come back and get a car?

A: It’s really up to the officer. Some officers, including myself, will just ride in the rain. We have rain jackets. The uniforms are water-wicking. But if it’s a heavy rain, if you want to, you can always come in and grab a car for the time it’s raining and go back out when it’s done. A lot of guys, especially if it’s just kind of a sprinkle, will just ride in the rain.

Q: What do you like most about your work?

A: What I like most is that you’re dealing with people on perhaps the worst day of their lives and you can try and help them as much as you can and make that day a little bit better. And that, for the most part, people trust us to do that for them. And it’s a huge responsibility, and I really like trying to help the people. We may not be able to make a situation right, or better, but we can maybe make it a little easier for them to handle during that time.

We’re in a public service job, a customer service job, and the public is our customer. I think that, especially with the officers that we have here, everybody strives to make sure that the public feels served and happy with the services they receive. A lot of officers go way out of their way to make sure that that’s done. … I think the KPD really embraces that.

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