Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Horses Valuable Tools in Crime Prevention

Horses can do such amazing things!!  A horse would instinctively rather run away from something that frightens them, but these horses trust their owners so much, they can even be used during a riot!!  HORSES ROCK!!  ~Declan

Horses valuable tools in crime prevention
By Bryan Kirk | December 11, 2012 As posted on The Houston Chronicle

Harris County Sheriff's Office Mounted Patrol Deputy Captain Gary Look and his horse "Majic," left, and Deputy D. W. Finley and his horse "Shadow" are part of the patrol, which was created in 1949 by Sheriff Buster Kerns. Photo: George Wong / Freelance

To members of the Harris County Sheriff's Office Mounted Patrol, their horses are a valuable tools of the trade and trusted partners.

Since 1949, the Harris County Sheriff's Office has maintained a mounted patrol comprised mostly of volunteer and reserve deputies.

The patrol began in 1949 under Sheriff Buster Kern, and its members have located missing persons, captured escaped prisoners and gone on search-and-rescue missions during adverse weather conditions.

Riot, traffic control

The mounted patrol has been used for riot control, traffic- and- crowd control and for ceremonial purposes such as the presentation of colors at parades or additional security at large group functions.

"These men serve the citizens of Harris County, and they get zero in return monetarily. They get no paycheck," said Christina Garza, HCSO public information officer.

"These are folks who do it for the love of public service."

Chief Kevin Maples, who heads up the Reserve Command, that oversees the mounted patrol division, said there is a common misconception about whether reserve officers can arrest you, and the answer to that question, Maples said, is yes.

"They are full-licensed peace officers, have the same authority and arresting powers … the only difference is they are not paid. They are all volunteers," Maples said.

There are more than 200 in the reserve command, but only 28 of them are in the mounted patrol.

Capt. Gary Look, who was appointed to serve on the mounted patrol by Kerns in 1972, has seen a lot of people come and go in his years on the team.

"They will work another job, patrol or criminal warrants, and when they are needed in the mounted patrol, then they are assigned to me," Look said.

Their own horses

The deputies who serve in the mounted patrol own and maintain their own horses on their own time, Look said.

"They have to use their own horses and their own expenses," Look said.

"The sheriff's office doesn't pay for anything."

The deputies also are responsible for getting their horses to their assignments when they are serving on the mounted patrol, which can often last anywhere from a day to several days, Look said.

Deputies and their horses have to be approved to serve in the mounted patrol.

In fact, horses, which can be easily frightened, have to undergo 40 hours of training each year.

The horse and the deputy must have a bond of trust to ensure success on the job.

Some of the training involves conditioning to loud or sudden noises, or strange people approaching them and ability to handle other unexpected events.

Aside from being in charge of the mounted patrol, Look also conducts much of the training for the deputies and their horses.

"I am the one who puts everyone through everything," Look said.

The HCSO conducts 20 hours in the spring and another 20 hours training in the fall to maintain certification.

Some of the training involves instruction in crowd control, evacuation of people, conducting traffic stops and firing weapons while on a horse.

Noise is the biggest factor a horse has to deal with.

Look said the horses are usually exposed to loud noises that would be present in a riot-type condition, as well as smoke from smoke canisters.

"They can be prepared for just about anything," he said.

Fun aspect

Of course, the goodwill ambassadorship of the mounted patrol is probably the most fun aspect of the work, Look said.

Those typically involve trips to schools and crime prevention demonstrations in neighborhoods or parades.

During those parades, the duties are often twofold.

"They are not only there to be in the parade, but to walk around and make sure (everything is fine)," Look said.

To learn more about the Harris County Mounted Patrol, go to

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