Whether they re used as a platform for engaging area youths in conversation or as a new avenue for patrol and quick response, Segway Personal Transporters (PTs) offer police agencies many possibilities. In the sweltering heat of Albuquerque, N.M., officers at the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) have found that Segway PTs do more than prevent crime and catch crooks; they draw crowds.
Probably one of the best things is it s a very good PR tool, says Patrolman First Class Jerome Armijo of the APD s downtown Valley Area Command. And, if people feel comfortable, they start to ask questions, even about anything personal going on with them.
Interestingly enough, Armijo notes, officers on Segway PTs are approached more often than those walking and riding bike patrol. It s just different, don t ask me why, he says.
From children attending a science convention intrigued by the device, or youths who have friends with warrants, to the bystander who witnessed a drug deal go down, Armijo says he hears all types of questions and information while on the Segway PT. It makes the police friendlier, he adds. People just want to talk.
In the APD Valley Area Command, officers cover an area of approximately 15 blocks in the city s downtown corridor, and their Segway PTs have proven to be an extremely beneficial patrol tool. Armijo says, The problem officers faced was when an incident occurred on 12th Street and the walking-patrol officer was located on 1st Street. That will wear you out after awhile. He points out that the climate alone is a challenge to an officer s energy level, noting that the heat, dehydration and fatigue go hand-in-hand.
Armijo says, Before we got [Segways], we would walk miles and miles. Now, we re able to respond to calls more quickly and not be as tired. He does point out that it s important to find a happy medium between riding the Segway PTs and walking patrol routes. He says that initially, officers would ride the Segway PTs all day, intrigued with the new tool. But today, they ride them during peak hours and charge them when traffic slows. It s better for the officer physically, says Armijo.
The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, a nine-day event in October, is the largest annual international event in the country and the most photographed event in the world. For the APD, Segway PTs provide a way to patrol this 365-acre event efficiently.
In addition to the major events, the benefit the Segway PTs offer officers on a daily basis is more important. Armijo explains, My partner and I saw a guy with some felony warrants. He spotted us and knew we were watching him, but figured he d go down a different street from us. The officers paralleled the felon on their Segways for several blocks, letting him tire out. When he started to slow, they pulled in front of him. The guy couldn t even run, he was tired, Armijo says. He and his partner, on the other hand, weren t tired at all, and easily took the suspect into custody.
Drug activity has also decreased in the APD s Valley Area Command since the Segway PTs have been deployed. It s like a cat and mouse game, Armijo explains. When you re on that Segway, they know you re going to roll up on them fast. It gets to a point where they say, Screw this, let s move our business elsewhere; they re watching us.
Park facilities are typically high-crime areas, and it s no different in New Mexico. Drinking and drugs are prevalent in the parks, but APD officers riding Segways can stop these activities as they are occurring. We literally drove up on them, Armijo says of some suspects in the local park. They never even heard us coming, and were in handcuffs before they knew what happened.
A self-balancing, electric human transporter, the Segway has roots into the end of the last century. In 1999, inventor Dean Kamen and his team created the Independence iBOT Mobility System, an all-terrain, self-balancing wheelchair. Kamen witnessed a person struggling to maneuver a street curb in a conventional wheelchair and decided there had to be a better way. The same technology used in the iBOT was transferred to the modern-day Segway, which was unveiled for the first time on Good Morning America in December 2001.
Law enforcement was not its initial market, but self-selected, says Chip MacDonald, director of police and government business for Segway Inc. The National Institute of Justice s National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center performed an independent study in 2003 to determine the value of the Segway PT to the law enforcement market. The organization put the devices to use in a variety of situations across the country, from airports, Alaska s state fair, bomb squads and more. The effort gave officers an opportunity to use the Segway in field conditions and demonstrated its potential in police work.
They came back with a fantastic recommendation of the product, particularly in its use for community policing efforts, says MacDonald. It s a draw. The officer is accessible and not just behind the glass of a vehicle. MacDonald adds, My favorite quote from the NIJ report is when an officer said, I ve been in and around law enforcement since 1975. Bar none, this is the greatest community policing tool I ve ever seen.
Four years after the NIJ report, sales have soared and police around the nation are stepping up onto Segway PTs. In 2007, the number of customers tripled from the previous year. Segway now offers the new i2 and x2 models. The i2 comes with standard wheels, while the x2 boasts all-terrain tires. Each is extremely portable, weighing just 105 and 120 lbs., respectively.
A big advantage Segway PTs offer to officers is the ability for them to stand 8 inches above a crowd and move at sprinting speed. An officer can patrol the same area in a third the time, says MacDonald. [The officer s elevated position] also increases visibility both ways, for the officer, and for the crowd.
Movement is simple. No throttle or brake is necessary. The Segway PT moves by syncing its gyros and electronics with an officer s body. You just lean and go, MacDonald explains. It works the way you walk. Lean further to go faster and pull up to stop. Different key fobs allow the Segway PTs to move at faster speeds.
Benefits in School & University Settings
The Arkansas State University Police Department purchased two Segway PTs in the summer of 2005 to aid in its patrol efforts of the university s more than 10,000 student population. We re always in full force on the Segways at game time, says ASU Officer Robert Peevey.
The main focus of deploying the personal transporter, he says, is to cut down on arrival times. As a university campus, the inner part of campus is often unreachable with a standard motor vehicle. He cites a recent example where a student was behaving inappropriately at a classroom facility. By the time we got in our cars to get there, the officer on the Segway was there already in less than a minute, Peevey explains. The Segway can be on scene in no time at all.
In good weather, of the three ASU officers on duty, two are on Segway PTs, and one patrols the outskirts by squad. Peevey says snow and ice are the only weather conditions that prevent them from riding the PTs because they tend to slide, especially on the many small hills and walkways at the university. But he s quick to point out that they are good in rain and on all terrain.
During the night shift, all the main campus buildings must be locked. Since everything on campus is handicap-accessible, we can ride right up to the doors, lock them, even go inside and in the elevator, to make sure no one s in the building, Peevey explains.
Another issue for ASU s officers after the sun sets is underage drinking. In the university s legally dry part of the state, Peevey explains, there s a liquor store near every county line. The night shift mainly deals with rolling up on people drinking in a parking lot, or on the side of a dorm, he says, noting it s easy to do on the nearly-silent Segways.
And, there are always a few fights that break out, especially on the north side of campus, which is close to some of Jonesboro s more dangerous off-campus areas. The silent factor of the Segway PT is particularly useful in such situations. Peevey notes, If an officer sees something going on around the building, he can sneak up and have a stealth approach.
It s fun, too. The Segways make it easy to maneuver around campus and riding them is fun. They help us out, which helps the students in return, Peevey says.
A Tactical Advantage
The Bloomington (Minn.) Police Department bomb squad purchased Segway PTs to aid them in their tactical efforts. The Segway use does not fall under public relations or stealth approaches, but rather officer relief and equipment transport. Our challenge is we wear a suit that weighs about 100 lbs. and we also carry equipment to the threat, says BPD Sergeant Rick Hart.
Prior to putting their PTs into service in the summer of 2004, BPD officers were walking in heavy suits and carrying their large equipment to a bomb threat. The distance varied based on their assignment: from 300 feet for a pipe bomb, to a mile for a large vehicle issue.
Today, their officers use Segway PTs often. Ideally, the longest you want to leave someone in a bomb suit is 30 minutes, explains Hart. You can imagine that once a person s been at the threat that long in extreme heat, they will be exhausted. The ride back on the Segway is going to be a lot better than having to walk and haul equipment.
The bomb squad is one of four in the state, and also serves the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. A light rail system from the metro area runs into the city and also falls under the bomb squad s jurisdiction.
With these many different areas to serve, a Segway PT is another tool that helps us accomplish our mission successfully, Hart says. The squad carries its Segway PTs to scenes in a trailer along with its many bomb investigative tools such as disrupters, X-rays and other render safe devices.
In Florida, sandy shores and tourist areas are limitless. For the Collier County Sheriff s Office, Segway PTs allow them to move seamlessly from resort complexes to parking garages and onto local beaches.
We have ATVs, which are difficult to get on the beaches. The Segways are much more maneuverable, says Sergeant John Dinda. On very crowded holidays such as President s Day, the beaches were absolutely jammed.
Collier County, the largest county in Florida, is known as the Paradise Coast because 80 percent of the land is in nature preserve. More than 300,000 people call Collier County home, in addition to the thousands of tourists that visit each year. In Collier County s North Naples district, where Dinda is head of community policing, there is one Segway PT in use. The others are stationed throughout the county s other five areas, which boast 37 miles of coastline.
The tourists love to shop, and in Naples they frequent very high-end stores, explains Dinda. The shopping centers are places where the Segway PTs really come in handy, allowing officers to see over the cars in parking lots and glide in and out of stores. Yesterday I was going through shopping centers on one and even startled the pedestrians, he says, explaining the machine is very quiet.
Though Dinda prefers patrolling on bicycle, he says PTs are more beneficial moving around the regions many large hotels, such as the two massive Ritz Carlton complexes, and maneuvering in the evening.
The County s newest acquisition is Segway racks for squad cars. Before, we had to load them on pickups or trailers, he explains. That was a hassle because those vehicles take up a lot of room. Now officers can easily transition from a large four-wheel vehicle to a small, maneuverable two-wheeled Segway.
The Segway personal transporter is allowing law enforcement agencies to step up to the challenges of the 21st Century with speed and ease. Dinda says the Segway PT can be described as a work in progress, for their agency. We re constantly learning all the different ways to use it, he explains. MacDonald knows the feeling. He says many agencies purchase their Segway PTs for a specific use they can see at the time, but when they have the product in hand, they learn so many other ways to use it.
1. LED Kit
This 5-watt, Lithium-ion LED projects a 120-lumen beam on low, high or flash settings. A lithium-ion battery provides six hours of high beam, 12 hours of low beam, and 40-plus hours of flash. A double-click button powers on the light, preventing accidental use. When the battery is low, an auto-lock function extends performance. It comeswith a charger, case and a two-year parts and labor warranty.
2. Segway Red/Blue Strobelight & Siren
This light and siren features a high-intensity LED alternating red-blue strobe and a siren. It’s powered by a long-lasting lithium-ion battery for 40-plus hours of strobe time and seemingly endless siren time. The unit includes a charger, case and two-year parts and labor warranty.
3. Reflective POLICE Labels
These highly visible reflective labels are available from Segway to identify your police Segway and make it easier for officers to be seen in the dark, in a crowd, or during bad weather.
4. Handlebar Bag
This molded plastic shell attaches to the Segway handlebars and can be easily detached and carried to another location. The exterior can be personalized with department names and logo. Available in black or white. It measures 11.5x8x15.5 inches.
5. Over-Fender Case
This lockable case features a rugged outer shell that will protect items from rain, sleet and snow. Each case can be customized with department name and logo comes with a side cargo support kit and a two-year warranty. It features a 21-liter capacity, measures 16.5x13.5x7.5 inches and weighs 3.3 lbs.
6. Universal Cargo Plate Kit
This multifunctional cargo plate can be installed in two positions and allows you to use bungee hooks and cargo nets to carry extra equipment. Its carrying capacity is 15 lbs., and it measures 17.5x5.8 inches.
7. Vehicle-Mounted Hauler
This vehicle-mount allows you to carry a Segway PT on a patrol vehicle. It works like a miniature forklift. You just remove the pin to lower the platform, roll your Segway PT on board, secure it and then push on the handlebar to raise it up. It’s compatible with standard 2" and 1.25" trailer hitches and adjustable to match the height of your vehicle.
8. Lock Kit
This lock allows you to secure your Segway PT to any immovable object, including the Segway Hauler. The 28" locking cable comes with two keys and is a convincing deterrent for would-be thieves.
9. Comfort Mats
These thick, industrial grade rubber mats absorb shocks and jolts, provides a cushioned ride, and reduce rider fatigue. Two mats per set.
10. Portable LED Taillight
Good for nighttime patrol or in areas of heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic, the LED taillight clips easily to a belt or backpack. It runs on two AA batteries (included) and provides 15 to 18 hours of visibility.
Jennifer Bradley is a public safety freelance writer living in Wisconsin.
For more information on Segway s police models, visit
By reducing the miles officers must walk or bike, and less energy expended, Segway PTs are improving law enforcement s response efforts as well as cost-efficiency demands. To illustrate the increased productivity your officers could have with use of a PT, as well as determine estimated cost savings, visit the Segway Web site and use the easy input calculator at www.segway.com/police-government/increase-productivity.php.