Cal Poly police officers no longer have to walk their beats. Some can now scoot their beats. Despite the economic recession, the university police department found money to purchase two electric tricycles for $8,000 each.
If it seems like a bad message to purchase new toys for officers to zip around on even as students face higher fees and instructors lose job security, university police say they’re a wise investment.
Police Chief Bill Watton said he bought the trikes, in part, because it was a good public relations move between police and students.
“It is good attention. People are more willing to come up and talk to the officers and we’ve seen that here since we’ve had the officers out,” Watton said.
The trikes are manufactured by Costa Mesa-based T3 Motion and look like the Johnny 5
robot from the movie Short Circuit. The company website boasts pictures of T3s at malls and in front of jet airplanes.
Officer Jason LeClair said he was leery of the trikes at first but after a few hours of riding he was sold. Although he said the electric vehicles are about as fast as a bike, not all the officers have gone through the necessary training program to ride bikes. Still, he added, he did encounter some pointing and laughing from students while he scooted across campus. He hopes that ends soon.
“I think once people see them out after a while that’s going to pass,” LeClair said.
Watton said the department had money available solely for the trikes. Available money had to be spent in a way that would help the department patrol new parking structures at the university. A new patrol car would have cost more than $30,000, he added, and would have become more expensive over time with gas and maintenance costs.
Asked why the department didn’t buy bicycles or something else less expensive, Watton said university police already use bikes and electric tricycles were the best new alternative.
“This is just one more tool that we can move around in—get around easily.”