By Lieutenant Phil West, Mono County Sheriff’s Department
The mounted unit was a highly visible unit yet had a soft demeanor: “The war horse: resolute in action, gentle in manner.” As Rich Perkins used to say, “No one ever comes up and asks to pet our patrol car.”
The mounted unit was able to direct large numbers of people that would take five or more officers on foot. The mounted patrol could accomplish this with one or two horses and in a gentle manner. The detail grew into an “Interagency Mounted Detail.” With the neighboring agencies together deployed up to 8-10 mounts at events that drew large numbers of people. At one event, we were asked back each year by the Chamber of Commerce because we (the horses), “had made it a family event again.”
Over the first few years, the unit made several arrests, but that began to taper off as a “particular element” saw the horses and either quietly leave the area or properly maintain themselves. It afforded the opportunity for folks to talk to a ‘cop’ in a more personal manner and not have the metal barrier of the patrol car in the way.
Quite a testament to the proactive nature of working mounted.
Unfortunately, with retirements and officers coming into the business that are not equestrians, the detail has diminished due to attrition. As Perkins would say, “Me and my merry band of men.” ~;o)
I always respected the Mounted Units related to police work. In 1981 the LAPD started a volunteer Mounted unit. My partner was an avid horsemen and often took me riding with him. I remember that first group used their own horses, tack, and transportation. They even had to feed their horses without compensation. My partner would get up hours early to feed his horse, load him into his own trailer and transport him to the days assignment. Then his pay would start. After his shift ended he would take his horse home and spend another couple of hours taking care of his horse. Later the LAPD started a full time mounted unit. The public loves the horses and the law breakers avoid them, especially after being stepped on. Hal
thanks for the comment, Hal. Horse-keeping takes a lot more time than most people think, but it’s a labor of love.
You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a horse pursuit on the radio! I’ve worked two–one DUI in Sonoma and one in Bishop with Phil who wrote the article.
Yes, Hal, you are 100% correct. When we started out, we did everything on our dime too other than the deployment itself, and to add… totally worth it, as Thonie said. The horses sometimes endured being bathed before sunrise and in temperatures that were at times, just above freezing. We always made sure that they were properly presentable to the citizens, as well as representing the agency. Later when we were compensated (time wise), I recall going 10-8 and advising dispatch, “I’ll be 10-6 at my ‘A’ and turning a ball of mud back into a horse.” It had rained that night.
I remember that pursuit, Thonie. I wish that I had copied that radio ‘tape’ with the sounds of Abby’s hooves hitting Main St. as I updated the pursuit of the guy on the bicycle! I still remember the guy’s name too.
“Me and My Merry Band of Men.”
This was tweaked a bit by Rich Perkins to: “Me and My Merry Band of ‘Man’,” when it was just he and I working a detail. Rich had a way with his Lee Marvin, John Wayne, and Yogi Bear combined intonation when he spoke that I can still hear him saying that and always bringing a smile to me. When the unit declined to the point of being down to Bigun and I, I took the liberty of tweaking Rich’s saying to:
“Me and My Merry Band of ‘Horse’.”
Good times and great memories that will last a lifetime.