WHEN CURTIS DORSEY ENVISIONED his future as a police officer, it never involved being on two wheels.
“I always imagined I’d be in a patrol car, working in a neighborhood or maybe on a campus,” says Dorsey.
But on this sweltering August morning, Dorsey is swiftly pedaling his Trek mountain bike along Market Street on UTMB’s Galveston Campus, waving at a passing motorist and then stopping to scan a section of campus to ensure it’s safe for the many students, staff, faculty and patients ambling to their destinations.
After becoming a bike patrol officer late last year, Dorsey says he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a blessing because I’m able to interact with the public in ways that I never would have been able to as an officer in a patrol car,” he says, noting that bicycles can travel anywhere on the campus in less than a minute. “There’s also just something about being on a bicycle that seems to bring out a connection with people. Everyone has ridden a bike, so there’s point of conversation already there, a way for us to bridge the gap with the public.”
Dorsey, who rejoined the UTMB Police Department in March 2018 after leaving law enforcement following a decade of service here, is one of two UTMB Police Department officers who cover dual roles as bicycle patrol and crime prevention officers for the institution.
Both he and Public Safety Officer Michael Peltier are responsible for patrolling the Galveston Campus on their bicycles, conducting security assessments in UTMB clinics and facilities, teaching a variety of classes—including the Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) training, and handling the UTMB Police Department’s segment at the twice-monthly New Employee Orientation.
Dorsey’s law enforcement career started out traditionally enough. When he first joined the UTMB police force in 2004, after serving four years in the U.S. Navy and then working for a Galveston burglary and fire protection company, he was a UTMB patrol officer, answering calls and providing a police presence via a patrol car.
He left law enforcement in 2015 for personal reasons. But a year later, when seven Dallas police officers were killed in a sniper shooting in that city, he knew that for him to have the most impact in his community, he’d need to return to policing.
“Being out of law enforcement, I started taking notice of how the greater society’s relationship with police was changing,” Dorsey remembers. “One of the things that pained me was that we were starting to lose that understanding between the community and police.”
At the time of the sniper shooting, Dorsey was working as an installer for AT&T. A chance encounter with a customer who happened to be a former judge and police officer from New Mexico convinced him to follow his calling.
“He told me I was doing a disservice to my community by not being a police officer and that he felt my heart was still in law enforcement,” Dorsey says. “I knew he was right.”
A few months later, Dorsey began working as a dispatcher for the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Police Department. From there, he regained his commission at College of the Mainland where he became a police officer once again.
In 2018, he rejoined the UTMB police force, first on patrol and then in his current role as a bicycle and crime prevention officer.
Dorsey’s typical day begins at 7 a.m. with a quick check of email and his calendar to ensure he’s covering whatever crime prevention assessments or trainings he may have. Once that’s out of the way, he and Peltier usually hit the bikes for the first time around 7:30 a.m., riding around campus for an hour or two looking for anything or anyone that’s out of place.
They’ll do the same patrol again around lunchtime with the goal of being visible on campus when the most people are milling about. Presence and visibility are a vital part of their policing.
UTMB Police Chief Kenith Adcox agrees.
“Our bike patrol is a great addition to our campus,” Adcox says. “Not only does it increase police visibility, helping to enhance overall security, but being on a bicycle provides officers with a greater opportunity to really connect with our students, staff and visitors on a personal level. It’s by building strong rapport and better communication between the police and the community that we are able to become aware of concerns and resolve them before they develop into larger problems.”
Adcox says that the duo’s work as crime prevention officers furthers their visibility across the UTMB community and makes them more approachable as well.
The two bicycle officers also fill in for the rest of UTMB’s law enforcement team to cover vacations and trainings across the force. Dorsey usually wraps up a day around 3 p.m., after completing paperwork generated by the day’s efforts.
“Crime is what keeps us employed but at the same time we’re trying to prevent what keeps us working,” Dorsey says. “My first priority is keeping our campus safe and serving people. That’s my role here at UTMB. That’s my responsibility, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”