SOUTH BEND — The South Bend Police Department revealed its new policing tool — e-bikes — just in time for Michiana Bike to Work week, hoping to build relationships in the community while continuing an efficient patrol throughout the city.

Michiana Bike to Work — May 13 to 17 — promotes community and features biking events such as an evening ride at Pinhook Park, a pancake breakfast at Jon Hunt Memorial Plaza and a brewery ride starting from Sun King Brewery at the Ironworks Plaza.

The department was the recipient of the 2023 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance, through which it was able to purchase nine new e-bikes from Fort Wayne-based vendor RECON. The grant allocated $55,000 toward public outreach. The grant also paid for batteries, chargers and equipment needed.

The decision to purchase e-bikes came from the combined findings of a commissioned 21st Century Policing Practices report, officer surveys, community surveys and staff meetings, Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski said Thursday in the department's garage. With their findings, the SBPD addressed two questions: What would cops like to have, and what would the community like to have?

"One of the top things we heard from the officers and the community is that they would like to interact with officers that patrol in the areas they live or work in," Operations Division Chief Dan Skibins said. "We think these e-bikes are going to provide that interaction with individuals. Our officers said they want the ability and the time to be able to do that."

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