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October 17, 2007
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From the IACP booth to your town: Segways are on a roll

NEW ORLEANS — If you were in New Orleans for the IACP Conference & Expo this week, chances are you saw NOPD horse-mounted patrol officers.


No kickstand required: The Segway Human Transporter shown at this year's IACP Conference in New Orleans.
From the Convention Center to Bourbon Street, these officers and their equine wards maintained a regal yet approachable police presence—"approachable" being the operative word whenever I needed to ask directions to the nearest coffee place.

And while Segways, human transporters ("HPs") that have been commercially available for several years, may lack a certain cache that only a majestic horse can deliver, they do serve the same critical purpose of allowing police officers to interact with their patrol environment. Moreover, they encourage people to walk up and actually talk to them – especially kids.  (How often does that happen when you’re inside a squad car?)

"The biggest benefit was our ability to start conversations with the general public,” said Chris Aldridge, director of the NIJ’s Border Research and Techology Center in San Diego, Calif. “People from 4 to 94 were amazed by the technology. . .I have been in or around law enforcement since 1975. Bar none, [they] are the greatest community policing tool I've ever seen.”

And how’s the ride, you ask?

It was smooth sailing for me my first time out. The Segway’s maneuverability is highly responsive—the term “ergonomic fluidity” comes to mind.

According to Segway’s Tech Beat, “The Segway HTs use two wheels running side-by-side and self-balancing electronic gyroscopes to keep a standing rider upright. They have no throttle or break; forward and backward movements are controlled by the lean of the rider.”

Luckily during my test ride, Segway's conference "booth" was a well-situated platform open on all sides, just in case I decided to take off onto the plusher terrain of carpet, which would have been no problem, as the Segway handles rough terrain as well as urban sidewalks.

In fact, Segway has added an off-road model to its lineup, called the Segway Cross-Terrain Transporter (XT), designed to travel over more rugged terrain such as park trails and gravel paths.

Now that Segway offers lithium-ion batteries that more than doubles the range up to 24 miles on a single charge, it’s a good bet more agencies will be looking at them to help bring patrol officers and the community together in their shared mission of safe streets.

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