West Allis Police Department utilizing segways for patrols

WEST ALLIS -- The West Allis Police Department has recently purchased segways, and that has people across the city doing a double-take!

At a recent classic car show in West Allis, Sgt. Darren Kmichik was hard to miss amid the Cameros and Chevelles.  He weaved in and out of the crowd on one of his department's new segways.

"I'll be riding this thing and I'll find myself smiling at the end.  My cheeks actually hurt cause I'm smiling,"Kmichik said. 

Two years ago, the West Allis Police Department became the first police agency in southeastern Wisconsin to start using segways on patrols. The city bought three segways for a total of $17,000 using a federal energy grant.

The segways are used mainly at community events, like the car show and State Fair. 

West Allis Mayor Dan Devine says the segways help officers engage the public and save the city money on fuel costs.

"It gives some of the officers an ability to get around quicker in narrower areas.  In today's times you gotta try new things. You gotta think outside the box," Devine said. 

While the segways have been well-received by some, there are also some critics. 

Steve Welcenbach says he objects to West Allis using federal tax dollars to pay for the segways.

"Segways, I would imagine, would be the equivalent of walking patrols and maybe bike patrols.  Frankly, I think both of those are more energy-efficient than segways are," Welcenbach said. 

Mayor Devine says the segways are part of a larger city goal to get more officers out and interacting with the community. 

"I think even some of the skeptics within our own department ended up enjoying them," Devine said.

At the very least, the segways have served as a conversation starter. 

"Some people are kind of stand-offish with police, not really wanting to come and talk to you.  When you're on a segway, everybody wants to talk to you," Sgt. Kmichik said.

Segway says there are currently six police agencies in Wisconsin that use segways.  In addition to West Allis, a spokeperson for Segway says the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department, Appleton Police Department, Fond du Lac Police Department, Neenah Police Department and Madison Police Department all use segway patrols.