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With local schools having closed for the summer, the police department’s bicycle patrol has resumed operations, traveling among the parks in central Newtown and the roads that connect them.
Officer William Chapman, who is a school resource officer based at Newtown Middle School, has been assigned to the bicycle patrol. Ofc Chapman replaces Officer Leonard Penna as bicycle patrol officer. Ofc Penna formerly was a school resource officer and has returned to police patrol work in motor vehicles.
Ofc Chapman, 35, who joined the police department in 2008, has bicycled for many years, having started the activity during his childhood. In his spare time, he enjoys recreational cycling on his personal bicycle. Such roadway cycling provides him with a sense of “peace and quiet,” he said.
To refine his abilities for police bicycle patrol work, Ofc Chapman recently attended police cycling school, acquiring skills that will be valuable as he pedals through town in his law enforcement role. In that training, he learned skills including balancing oneself on a bicycle at slow speeds, riding up and down flights of stairs, making a quick dismount from a bike, and how best to manage one’s energy while cycling.
Taking the 40-hour program provided him with “an opportunity to sharpen skills that I’ve been developing since I was a kid, “ Ofc Chapman said.
The large black Trek-brand bicycle that Ofc Chapman uses is a mountain-style bike of rugged construction with heavily-treaded tires suitable for traveling across a variety of terrain. The bicycle is designed for police use.
Ofc Chapman expects that much of his patrol work will involve riding the bike at Fairfield Hills, Dickinson Park, Treadwell Park, and the roadways that connect those areas. He also expects to ride at outdoor public events such as day camps.
Police bicycle patrol work is a form of “community policing” in which police interact more closely with the public than they do while patrolling town in SUVs and sedans, he said. A police officer on a bicycle is much more approachable than an officer sitting inside a motor vehicle, he noted.
Beyond his bicycle patrol work, Ofc Chapman has conducted bicycle safety classes for second-graders at Sandy Hook School and Middle Gate School as well as for Cub Scouts at St Rose School.
Ofc Penna said that Ofc Chapman will do well as a bicycle patrol officer.
“It’s a great program…It’s an important program,” Ofc Penna said.
Other roles that Ofc Chapman has at the police department include being a member of the Newtown Police Honor Guard and member of the Regional Emergency Services Unit.