Monday, June 30, 2008

Your tax dollars at work: Segway into spending

The only thing more ridiculous than watching some lazy bastard zip down a sidewalk or through a shopping market on a Segway is if that lazy bastard happens to be a cop. These devices have been gaining popularity in law enforcement communities, as urban police department search for new and inventive ways to blast through their pool of federal tax dollars.

Up on this list is the tech-happy Glens Falls Police, who are looking into purchasing some of these two-wheeled electric propulsion devices as a way to get officers out of their squad cars and onto the streets. The Post Star reports the department is now testing two of these $6,000 devices, with the anticipation of purchasing at least one to patrol the city streets before summer’s end.

Police officials are selling the devices as a way to help the city conserve on gasoline during this high-cost age of fossil fuel. And best of all, it’s free to the taxpayer, thanks to federal grant funding.

“It's a good option for patrol in a central business district,” remarked Police Chief Joseph Bethel. “You can run silently, and unlike a bicycle or on a foot patrol, the officer won’t be out of breath when they get there (to a call).”

Of course, most physically fit individuals can maintain a sustained run at more than 10 mph and don’t have problems tipping over when darting around corners. And unlike the electric-powered Segway, most foot patrols are fueled by a well-balanced diet and can walk more than 24 miles in a day without having to be plugged into a charger. Usually, these are feats any remotely fit person can accomplish without feeling sore the next day.

So as logic would have it, one would think the department would simply tell its officers to pound concrete a bit more. The effort would help them develop a better report with the public and would help some of the more donut-prone cops shed some of the excess pounds. Case in point, this officer filmed riding the Segway doesn’t appear to be among the most fit in the department.

However, foot patrols are often shunned by police unions, which generally like their constituents to do as little physical work as possible. Take for instance the increasing prevalence of Tasers among Capital Region law enforcement agencies. It’s another high-tech device aimed at preventing police from using what they tend to use anyway: Brute animalistic force.

One can at least argue the Taser helps police avoid hand-to-hand combat, which often has a habit of causing costly injuries. The Segway, however, looks like an injury waiting to happen for any cop engaging an individual who doesn’t necessarily feel like being apprehended. It’s tough to argue that officers are more balanced when they’re standing two feet above the public and balancing on two wheels.

Not to mention, Segways are inoperable in snow and ice, which happens to blanket most of the Capital Region for up to five months out of every year. In other words, it’s a $6,000 expense our deficit laden federal government would be wise to avoid, especially given the size of Glens Falls and its police force.

The most compelling argument against these devices is that they add yet another layer of machine between the law and the public it governs. The next logical step is to remove the officers from the street altogether. Maybe they can start policing the community with cameras, unmanned Predator drones and urban tactical squads. After all, this sort of tactic seems to be working fairly well overseas.

26 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Horatio -

I hate to admit it but I did see the Segway work very well by an Fire Department (really EMS agency) at a festival in Virginia. The festival had a number of people (who looked like the PO in the photo) doing physical activities in 103 degree heat. This became a mass casuality incident with a number of people (over 20) going down with heat issues in about 10 minutes time. They were spread out in about 8 acre area so the Segways worked great in difficult terrain.

Not exactly the normal situation in Glens Falls but give it a chance or research how other departments have done with them. I know at the beginning of the festival we all laughed at the Fire/EMS Segways and at the end they had our respect.

Now the tactical squads, drones and cameras all seem excessive - but if your love ones are being held against their will - you would want the best. This is always the trouble in deciding public policy.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I laughed out loud when i read your amusing commentary regarding the police and their unions.

Call me old fashioned but isnt using brutal animalistic force part of why i pay them my tax money. I want them using guns, billy clubs and tasers. in my opinion they are rather underutilized in places like schenectady and albany, dont you agree. i dont want saratoga to become like these places, and they are only a hop skip and segway away. ha ha.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Big Dan said...

Yes, and like I said in my blog they come with lights and sirens, WTF for? 12 mph with lights and sirens look out assholes here I come or is it cum?

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Mamie said...

This is what happens when you are one sided! No comments!

6:42 PM  
Blogger shotinthedark said...

Horatio, quit blowing smoke out of your ass.

6:50 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

Mamie

Ahem? I can't always be updating my blog. Occasionally, the comments must stagnate for a few hours...But since you asked, here's some stats for you:

Comments moderated this week: 0
Comments moderated in June: 8
Comments moderated in May: 5
Published comments in June: 209
Published comments in May: 175
Comment moderation average(May-June): 3.3 percent

If that's one-sided, I'd love to hear what the other side has to say, sans the libelous trash talk...

I will add that these numbers are a bit skewed. Sometimes, you posters get a little overzealous and hammer the post button a few too many times. I don't reprint duplicate comments. In closing, it takes a lot of determination to get moderated here. But some of you manage to do it. I was even nice enough to form you all a trash-talking blog, which, incidentally, is about to be transformed into something a bit less abrasive.

9:48,

Interesting take and I suppose you're right. I'm just not sure if the uses extend to Glens Falls and cold-weather regions. But I'm willing to hear a voice of reason.

Believe it or not, part of me likes the idea of a Segway if indeed it does move the police out of their cruisers. I've been told by several people living around the high-crime areas in Albany and Schenectady that they refuse to cooperate with the police because of a general storm trooper attitude taken by law enforcement; mind you, these are bystanders not criminals we're talking about here. Instead of walking the beat, talking to kids and getting to know the families or business owners, they simply come firing up the street in cruisers, lights and sirens blaring.

I'm a tireless advocate of community policing. It's a lot more difficult to break the law when you grew up with talking, laughing and interacting with the officers enforcing that law. A major drawback of today's law enforcement technology is that the cops have become faceless entities that are feared instead of respected.

And now to contradict myself. Riding the Segway, officers stare down on the people they police by about two feet. I think there's a quite literal allusion to be gleaned from that: the law looks down on you like you're cattle; it doesn't look you in the eye like a person.

Big Dan,

If a cop on a Segway was after me, I'd make sure to run like Ben Johnson with an extra dose of anabolic. Just think how embarrassing it would be to admit you were chased down and yoked up by one of those guys.

7:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More from 9:48

Horatio -

I think your right on with community policing - it works, it is not cheap but it works well and it is really about public service. It is also not just for the police department it is for all public agencies.

As a disjointed comment, is the Segway really any different than having a mounted police officer? The Segway and the horses can open up a conversation that can lead to that dialoque for community policing. I highly doubt that the mounted horses (is there 1 or 2?) is very cost effective in Saratoga Springs. But dollars and cents is only one way to measure effectiveness. I think giving the community - I think it is only proper that SSPD should have at least two mounted officers. It has to do more with community pride and spirit yet horses have proven themselves to be effective with law enforcement.

I had reason to walk Broadway on a number of days last fall - about mid-day and I did notice a young fit officer walking the streets... that is a good thing but what I really enjoyed was the DPW had the same crew everyday watering the flowers. They had a good word to say every day (normally about the Yankees) but it built the stewardship of the community which is what is so important.

Since I know that he is reading and a good marketer - I wish Kyle big crowds and good weather for his activities this weekend - because over time I believe they will build stewardship of the community which is just another part of the puzzle similar to community policing.

Wow, a positive conversation on this blog - I am sure it will be moderated!

Have a great long weekend,

6:00 AM  
Anonymous Kyle York said...

6:00 AM

MANY folks have worked plenty hard for our first try at a 3-day July 4 Celebration. As just one member of the team, I thank you. For everyone with old memories of a zillion trucks & tents & tacky vendors galore, please come enjoy the open space and live music.

Of course, we'll have SSPD and FD security...all paid for through donations. Personally, I'm a big fan of our officers, especially the officers on foot. Our Broadway-based city enables well-trained low-tech eyes to scan a long stretch as opposed to a square grid. On foot, car, saddle or Segway, I only hope we come together and give the officers the facility they deserve.

Finally, I couldn't agree more about how much the DPW watering crews deserve thanks. It's not easy moving the heavy sluggish trucks in heavy summer traffic. Hitting the high baskets...and holding a wobbling 8-foot sprayhead in place...it's tougher than it looks. You're always trying to avoid spraying passers-by, your head's on a swivel with every wind shift. The crews are great people and I enjoyed working with them during the past few planting seasons. I bailed out this season to plan the Fourth... but it's always a joy to stop, talk, or just share a smile with neighbors like 6:00AM.

By Segway or by segue, come enjoy your flowers, your park and your neighbors on the Fourth!

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't wait for the day they have the fully loaded Segway, with flashing reds and blues and blaring siren. Has anyone gotten pulled over yet from a Segway?

(Nothing looks more ridiculous then watching a cop going full tilt on one of those things)

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Smecklehead said...

I was pulled over by a segway cop! She was okay at first but we really got into and she took me in to the station. She strapped me to her rear end and took me for the ride of my life! I'm in love.

4:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle York Said

"Of course, we'll have SSPD and FD security...all paid for through donations."

In order to prove what you are saying you will need to publish the cities accounting sheets showing that the donations are actually covering all the costs of public safety and public works support for this event. Other wise it sounds like a politicians hot air to bluff for another tax increase.

6:23 AM  
Anonymous agphoto said...

on a related note: you can fit many more segways in the drive-thru line 4 dunkin donuts than cruisers.

Do i have to think of everything? Oops, now i'm asking for it...

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Screw Kim and his Palace! What about the recreation center? Build it damn it!

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You think things are bad now, wait until Israel bombs Iran before Barak Gets in office. Then your gonna see the economy and this world get alot worse! I say, lets bring back legalized gambling, build a casino in town and everybody stfu!!!

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Kyle York said...

6:23

Please. We'll have the Grande Inquisition next week. I'll open the books, I'll open my veins.

But for now, for ONE sweet day, let the cynicism and suspicion slide...just let it go. Bring a friend or a small kid to Congress Park on the Fourth. You’ll find me easily enough and I'll buy you some ice cream. You could even share it with the kid…but you don't have to. I can spring for two. Out of my own pocket.

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not much mentioned lately on the race for democratic committee members. What is going on? Seems the majority on this blog are McTyglits. I guess they are getting buried. That's why they are setting up people with their excuses.

6:45 PM  
Blogger shotinthedark said...

Kim obviously didn't get the message that city voters sent him when they booted Valerie's ass off of the city council.

The dumb bastard continues to shower her with praise.
If he had any brains he wouldn't just walk away from her; he would run.

7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey 6:45,

Could you be any dumber, or more vindictive?

Maybe people just don't want to associate themselves with the likes of you and your fellow Kehhn crazies. Maybe anyone with a brain would be afraid that the "nutty dust" you and your ilk give off is contagious.

Every time I hear you use the term McTyglits I want to hunt down your IP address, find your house...excuse me, trailer, and punch you in the face.

Just for once, why don't you buck the trend and come out with something thought provoking, or better yet, some actual *proof* of the former Commissioners misdeeds.

You are, as they say in Russian, Nekulturny.

6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shot in the balls - You just don't get that your boy McTygue is history so you don't have to impress him with your Keehn attacks. Don't forset more voters jumped ship on McTygue than jumped ship on Keehn.

Prediction: Kim and Johnson will find common ground on the Police building and the Rec center. They will approve both. If not they will both be history!

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG i've been drinking grey goose since 9am....god bless america!

1:12 PM  
Blogger Faulkner said...

Another entry please, before I die. Look at me... I ain't getting any younger.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

Relax, Willie.

Some of us had three-day Fourth of July benders to go on...

6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6:51

Welcome back...along with everybody else who was off line ond oot of town. While you were away, our park was invaded, brodway was invaded and the City treasury picked up the tab. Don't think the visitors picked up the garbage. Didn't know about it?The papers tell you it was Ken Ivins (Commisioner Taxman) and corporate sponsors. Right do the math. Sponsors for $100, they don't add up. But look at the websites and you know thqat it is Kyle York spending on musician friends. He did it last year with his pal Tommy Boy and now he has Ivins as his Council pal. Last year, it all got rained out and the park was saved. This year, the park was mobbed, broadway had a lame parade and litter from a food festival... and Uncle Sam York was on the stage to introduce one band. While our money was spenting on roadblocks, York was probably down at his barstool at the Stadium. Wake up Saratoga! Find out about what you missed. Ask questions to City Hall. One things for CERTASIN at the next meeting will be Uncle blowhard Sam York thanking al;l the children with face painted flags. He won't tell you they waited 30 minutes in line. Wake up!

7:51 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

7:51,

I'll let this post slide this time. But I'm really not a big fan of the cut-and-paste technique used to spread a message through local blogs.

It doesn't take long to come up with an original post. At most, it takes a couple of minutes. If you're going to post something on (dis)Utopia, which I clearly read, at least do me the pleasure of posting something different here, even if you only change one or two words...

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes 6:51. The 3 day 4th of July celebration brought a record number of people into town. With this amount of people and the revenues produced for the city we should expect a 5% property tax reduction.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Segways strike me as useful vehicles for emergency services and public safety patrol. They're better at closing longish distances than running, even for the fit; are more compatible with pedestrians and their thoroughfares than a car, horse or bicycle; and the Segway riding position clearly puts personnel at better tactical advantage both underway and in mounting and dismounting transitions than other vehicles.

Foot patrol is the gold standard for neighborhood police beats, but for events and when personnel have to cover larger areas affectively, having a motorized contracption that more or less fits in with pedestrians seems like a really useful tool.

The New York State Legislature passed a bill on 1 July allowing for Segawy use on "low-speed roadways and bike lanes" (quoting the Segway press release.) Saratoga Springs has disallowed their use to date, but that may have been to observe strict compliance with State motor vehicle laws.

No, I don't work for or sell Segways, nor do I own one. But if it turned out to be the best vehicle for an important role, I'd happily support their use (and use one myself.)

10:27 PM  

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