Note: This post was authored by RDC friend, Sam Chesnut ~ One of our very special OCSO Mounted Patrol Members. I added the “Shout Out” language to the title of this post. They’re certainly deserving of some kudos from our group today. Thanks, OCSO-MP, for all you do.~ RDC Editor
Have you ever heard the phrases, “Back to the future,” or “That’s so old it’s new?” Well that very approach applies to one of the newest/old forms of law enforcement in operation today. It is the use of horses in patrol and special services provided for modern day law enforcement. The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office is one of the very few organized, operational mounted patrol units in existence in Oklahoma. The OCSO Mounted Patrol is a progressive concept supported and expanded by Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel. Sheriff Whetsel has utilized the Mounted Patrol in general and specialized patrol, agency assists, field searches, and crowd control. The usefulness of the Equine Mounted Patrol in law enforcement is only limited by your imagination, and the particular situation at hand.
The OCSO Mounted Patrol is a volunteer assignment and all horses are personally owned and cared for by each Deputy. This is especially effective in that each Deputy has continuous interaction and care for their equine partner. Through training, each horse and Deputy become partners. Through life, each horse and Deputy become buddies and friends.
During the most recent State Fair of Oklahoma at Oklahoma City the OCSO Mounted Patrol assisted and backed other OCSO Deputies and officers of the Oklahoma City Police Department. One of many duties performed by the mounted Deputies was escorting subjects that had either been placed under arrest by other law enforcement officers or escorting subjects off of the Fairgrounds after having been evicted by law enforcement officials. The effectiveness of this function is unbelievable. One unit that particularly utilized the Mounted Unit was the OCPD Gang Enforcement Unit. If a particular individual, or group of individuals, created a disruption the OCPD Unit would detain them. After having determined that there were no outstanding warrants for their arrest they were directed to leave the Fairgrounds by the detaining officer/deputy. The Mounted Patrol was requested and the suspects were escorted from the area.
On one occasion there were ten individuals who would best serve the tranquility of the Fair by leaving who were pointed out to the Mounted Patrol. As the OCSOMP rode behind the young “gentlemen” Deputy Randy Garner, the Unit Section Leader, ordered. “…and keep your hands where we can see them.” Ok, this might be a good time to recall the old saying, “Be careful of what you ask for, because you might get it.” As soon as Deputy Garner gave that order every one of the young men stuck their hands as high in the air as they could reach. It was in that position that they all walked until they were completely out of the Fairgrounds to May Avenue. It had to look like it did in olden days when the Sheriff marched the “bad guys” out of town. I wish I had had my camera with me. (Note to general public: If you happened to have snapped a picture of that occasion please forward it to the Red Dirt Chronicles.) It was all we could do to keep from laughing out loud. You had six Deputies on horses with ten “bad guys” walking in front of them with their hands just as high in the air as they could get them. One of the “little toughies” hollered, “I’m afraid of horses.” He was then told, “Then just keep on walkin’, you’ll be fine.” He did, and he was. The assisting of other agencies is certainly a serious law enforcement function, but as you can see it can have its light-hearted moments.
Of course the classic use of mounted patrols is the “crowd control” operation. When trained mounted patrols are put into an out of control crowd they will move unwilling subjects like a road grader. The Mounted Patrol horses are trained to perform a maneuver known as the “side-pass.” Another variation of this maneuver is the “half-pass.” Both of these techniques involve the horse moving in varying degrees of forward and sideward movements. The result is astounding and that technique can be used as gently or aggressively as the circumstances dictate.
Unfortunately not all functions of the Mounted Patrol are as pleasant. Recently the OCSO Mounted Patrol was requested by the OSBI to assist in an area search for a young lady who had recently been reported missing. The area to be searched would have been a time consuming and daunting task for Deputies on foot but it was “right down the line” for the Mounted Patrol. Horses have amazing senses and they can detect an object, or person, long before a human can. They will “indicate” in the same manner a K-9 unit will if an unfamiliar object, sound, or smell is perceived. After less than two hours the search was over. Tragically, the search did not have the conclusion we all had hoped for. But closure was given to the friends and loved ones of the young lady. Law enforcement is not always a pleasant task.
Fortunately there are enjoyable times to be had with the OCSO Mounted Patrol. Probably over 90% of the Mounted Patrol’s work could be classified as P.R. (Public Relations). This is a wonderful time when Deputies can meet the public in a “non-law enforcement” surrounding. So many times children only get to meet a law enforcement officer when the situation is of a negative nature. The Public Relations appearances made by the OCSO Mounted Patrol are excellent opportunities to meet children and adults in a positive uplifting venue. So many times you hear accounts from older people who used to have a horse or who rode a horse to school. One of the favorite taunts from the Mounted Patrol to one of the Solo (Motorcycle) Units at one of these events is, “When is the last time someone wanted to pet your motorcycle?” On January 16, 2011 we appeared at the “International Finals Rodeo Kids Day” in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The sight was amazing, there had to be almost 1000 children in the arena. The horses just dropped their heads to the level of the children and enjoyed the petting. The horses love attention, and they were in their element. There just is no more effective tool to allow law enforcement to interact with the public in a positive sense than the Mounted Patrol.
The role of the Mounted Patrol in law enforcement is as old as law enforcement itself, but it is as new and innovative as the most recent technology. There is no tool in law enforcement that can be adapted to more situations and uses than the horse. And there is no better duty than to share the calling to be a law enforcement officer with a loved and trusted friend, your horse.