Police officers riding bicycles in downtown Austin now have new and improved riding gear thanks to a donation from an Austin company.
Parlsey Energy, Inc. provided funds for the Austin Police Department to invest in new bicycle helmets and other protective gear to equip 50 officers.
This new gear includes a full-face helmet that protects the jaw and also goes farther down the neck to help reduce the risk of concussions or other head injuries. Chris Carlisle is a corporal for the department and said since this gear was implemented about a month and a half ago, the number of injury reports submitted for bike injuries have drastically decreased.
"The gear is designed to protect the officers, so they can ride their bikes through crowds and safely maintain a public view and make sure there's nothing bad that's going to happen during a protest," Carlisle said. "It's so light. It's like a second set of skin; that's why it's called lizard skins. We can perform every function we can do as a police officer."
Interim Police Chief Brian Manley also spoke of the necessity of this gear for officers, specifically in Austin.
"Austin is a great city, and we are host to a lot of free speech events or other celebratory events that happen on Congress Avenue, at the Capitol or at the University of Texas," Manley said. "They garner large crowds, and a lot of these crowds end up doing marches, whether they happen on sidewalks or streets. We have to allow them to do that safely; to do this with these bicycle officers, and to have this safety equipment is fantastic."
This new gear is also used in BKX racing to protect riders from falls and wrecks. Parsley Energy is an independent oil and natural gas company in the Austin area. Matt Gallagher is the COO of the company and said it was an easy decision to provide this donation to the department.
"I walk the streets of downtown daily, and I have seen firsthand the quality of some of our drivers," Gallagher said. "With that, we recognize the need for additional safety protection and some safety gear for the Austin Police Department and the men and women that ride the bikes day in and day out."
While 50 officers have the equipment right now, Carlisle said the eventual goal is for all 128 officers that are biking downtown to be wearing the gear.