FORT WORTH -- It's a "real big deal" that Fort Worth's cops on two wheels were invited to help provide security at the Democratic National Convention next month in Charlotte, N.C.
The officers assigned to the bicycle patrol are a familiar sight in downtown Fort Worth, where they zip around day and night in shorts and white-accented bike helmets.
But guarding a convention where the attendees include the president of the United States, governors, hundreds of delegates and, no doubt, assorted celebrities and protesters is a different kind of duty.
"It's incredible," police Capt. Daniel Humphries said. He heads the bicycle division and is also in charge of Central Division downtown where they patrol.
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"We get to showcase our skills while serving our country in this important element of the democratic process."
Twenty-three Fort Worth bike officers are scheduled to go to the convention, which is set for the week after Labor Day, Sept 4-6.
The patrols' high-security training included getting ready for Super Bowl XLV in February 2011 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Extreme winter weather and other factors prevented officers from using their training to the fullest.
But this time, weather should not be a factor. They'll have jackets, but most importantly, they are taking bags full of special equipment -- some police-issue, such as gas masks, and some gear worn by bike enthusiasts that looks like it was designed for Robocop. Fort Worth's downtown bike patrol unit, formed in 1991, is made up of 18 officers and two sergeants assigned to Central Division.
They work four 10-hour shifts a week.
Some neighborhood officers also patrol on bicycles elsewhere in the city.
At a recent shift change, bike patrol officers discussed the trip.
"It's a real big deal," Sgt. Darren Young said. "We will be using our skills on a national platform and will have the opportunity to make the city and the department proud."
Humphries ticked off some advantages of using bike officers for convention security. They "are more mobile, they can use their training and equipment to direct and control the crowd flow, and they offer a key advantage in helping to address any subjects who choose to violate the law in the safest manner possible with the least amount of interruption to the lawful assembly of the rest of the group," he said.
The people of Fort Worth gain, he said, because after "this experience, the bike unit will be better prepared to safely and effectively manage large events involving large numbers of people in our own city."
The cost of the trip, including salaries, travel, room and board, will be reimbursed by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department through a federal grant that went to the convention's host city. Grant money will also help offset the cost of hiring Fort Worth officers to pick up the downtown patrols in the bike officers' absence.
Bike-certified neighborhood patrol officers will be brought downtown to fill in while they're gone.
"It's no surprise that the Fort Worth bike patrol officers have been selected for this honor," said Mayor Betsy Price, an avid cyclist.
"They are a well-trained group -- so well-trained that they have been asked to help train other bike patrols. They are a true asset to this city."