Friday, May 11, 2018

Hoof beat back on patrol as equine enforcers revived in Jacksonville. (Times-Union)

Should the National Park Service and City of St. Augustine resume horseback patrols here?

What of St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, who legally changed his name from "HOAR" in 1994?
Would the HOAR ride a horse?
Or is the HOAR an full-time, overtime energumen -- already encumbered with the highest social status in St. Johns County, being Political Boss, tortfeasor, fraudfeasor and horse's arse, Republican Lord of All He Surveys?

Hoof beat back on patrol as equine enforcers revived in Jacksonville

Posted at 2:57 PM
Updated at 8:55 PM
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union

The call came in to check on some suspicious characters in a city park in Arlington, and Jacksonville sheriff’s officers Casey Griffis and Thoren Dudley saddled up.

Yes, they literally saddled up a pair of powerful Percherons named Maverick and Tonka as part of the Sheriff’s Office’s newly revived mounted patrol and clip-clopped down Merrill Road to investigate Cesery Park.

Sitting 6 feet high in the saddle above drivers who slowed to gape at a sight not seen in seven years, Griffis, Dudley and the huge horses showcased one aspect of the job, Lt. Michael Shell said.

“People have been really excited to see them,” said Shell, head of the the Sheriff’s Office’s mounted and canine units. ”... They get noticed where they are at so the public sees and knows they are there. The officers can see a lot more of what’s going on. And there’s community relations. People absolutely love seeing them and it’s a great way for the Sheriff’s Office to reach out to the public.”

It’s great to be back on the hoof beat, added Griffis, 23 years an officer, 10 on horseback.

“I was just thrilled. You can’t believe it until you actually see it,” he said. ”... Finally, you see it on paper and get transferred back. Man, it’s a great thrill, almost as good as the first time.”

It’s a police technique as old as law enforcement itself, begun in the early 1900s in Jacksonville with a mounted unit whose duties included pulling paddy wagons, the Sheriff’s Office said. In 1919 the unit was disbanded, but archive photos show a Duval County mounted patrol on duty in 1942. The mounted unit was revived about 1982, duty including crowd control at events like the 2005 Super Bowl in Jacksonville and a 1992 rescue at Huguenot Park of two children caught in a riptide, the Times-Union reported.

But in 2011, Jacksonville’s mounted force of five was dismounted as part of then-Mayor Alvin Brown’s budget cuts, the Sheriff’s Office said. The officers went back to patrol while the horses retired to the city’s Montgomery Correctional Center prison farm on Lannie Road, tended by staff and trustees with visits from their former riders.

“It was terrible, kind of unreal in the beginning,” Griffis said.

But that wasn’t the end of the equine enforcers.

“There was always a hope they would be coming back and the opportunity to get them with the public again,” Shell said. “It’s been a slow process. The policy for the unit was officially published several weeks ago. At that point, they were officially a unit again.”

Two horses were considered too old to be reactivated. But Midnight, Maverick and Tonka, who sport ground-pounding hooves clad in steel shoes, were saddled up again with Griffis and Dudley. Back at the canine and mounted patrol center on West Duval Street in LaVilla, equipment had to be checked, repaired or replaced after years of disuse. The horses relearned how to react to crowds and work around obstacles, then began patrolling in pairs monitoring parks and other public areas like Riverside, downtown and Brooklyn.

Dudley and Griffis also take time to groom the horses and clean stalls and equipment. They rotate among the three horses where you can “see great, hear great and be seen,” especially at Jacksonville’s big events, Griffis said.

“You have to have a mounted patrol because officers on horseback can do the same amount of work that 10 officers can do on the ground,” he said. “We can clear streets a lot faster and hardly have anyone get hurt, especially officers.”

They also respond to calls like Tuesday’s check of Cesery Park. The officers parked at Lighthouse Christian School on Merrill Road to saddle up for patrol, giving students a quick visit.

“There’s a lot of muscle there, isn’t there,” Griffis said as 11-year-old Tania Duncan gently touched Maverick’s chestnut brown side. “These steel shoes, you have to be careful.”

“I am just really amazed in seeing a horse,” Tania said after meeting the 2-ton equine. “I’ve never seen a horse before. It’s big.”

The horses and riders carefully clopped down the center turn lane on Merrill Road to the park where they found nothing of note. That’s their task now, enforcer and equine, including a job a week ago rounding up a loose pig. And maybe, more will join the force.

“The focus is on patrol,” Shell said. “But there is the potential down the road. The long-term goal is to get the unit back up to five officers.”

Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549

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