Riding an average of 25 miles a day, HPD bike officer Zhen Wang knows the Westchase District area. “It’s different than being in a patrol vehicle,” said Wang, a nine-year veteran of the Westchase District Patrol. “When you are on a bike you ride past people on the trail and on the streets. It makes my day when people say hello and wave. We love smiles too.”
After Wang puts miles on the bike, he is happy that Bike Barn is in the District to service his team’s bikes annually. “It’s convenient and great place for us to go to keep our bikes ready. The staff know us and provide great service.”
That familiarity, Wang says, illustrates how closely knit the Westchase community is and makes his job rewarding. He learned about the Westchase District Patrol from other Houston Police Department officers who were assigned to the area with HPD’s Midwest Division substation.
From HPD to public safety in the District
“I grew up in Alief and went to Elsik High School and am familiar with the neighborhoods that are close to Westchase. Being on patrol with HPD nearby makes it easy to transition to my Westchase shifts,” said Wang.
Wang feels like a lot has changed over the years in how people perceive police officers. He has learned that gaining trust is more important than ever and is necessary to do the job well. “What I want to do is to serve and protect the community in a way that makes a difference. That will never change,” he said.
Since he was a child, Wang dreamt of becoming a police officer. He was a fan of police and firefighter TV shows. “I definitely have grown into the job now,” Wang said. “Every day is different. I see different people…try to help people every day.”
Wang says improvements around Westchase District have made his job easier. “There are a lot of improvements I’ve seen like better bike and pedestrian-friendly routes,” he said. The impact of such improvements may not be obvious, but it has made his interactions with the public easier, said Wang.
Establishing a personal touch in his relationships with hotel managers and apartment managers is equally important because it reinforces the patrol’s approach of building bridges into the community, said Wang. “I learn about concerns so am able to adjust the amount of presence based on what they tell me.”
Fun with the public
In one instance, he was riding the trail. A group of teenagers on bicycles saw him and challenged him to a race. Wang gladly accepted, taking part in the fun. As for who won the race, Wang said he let the kids win with a laugh. He has a 13-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter who are active in sports like basketball. “I have to keep up, or else I can’t play with them.”
At 6 foot 3 inches tall, it’s hard to miss Wang which is why he encourages people to say hello if they see him ride by. “Those little gestures go a long way and we appreciate it.”
Wang puts Chinese food and barbecue at the top of his dining list. He likes driving by Yao Restaurant and Bar at 9755 Westheimer Road in hopes of seeing his hero, former NBA and Houston Rockets’ star Yao Ming, but hasn’t spotted him yet. He wishes Ming had a longer career in the NBA but that he’s nonetheless one of the biggest stars in the Chinese community. And, if he were to see Yao, Wang said he would tell the 7 foot 6 inch tall former pro: “Wow, you are a lot taller than me.”