The Hampton Police Department’s Horse Mounted Unit

By Virginia Hatch

Seacoast Scene, September 2, 1987

[Hampton’s Mounted Police, left to right:]
Deputy Chief Dennis Pelletier on PEACOCK, PTL. Joseph Galvin on MAGIC,
PTL. Andrew Annicelli on SUNDANCE, PTL. Lee Griffin on SCOUT
& Sgt. John Galvin on RASTA.
[Photo by Budd Perry Memories Studio]
{Above photo not in original article.}

The Hampton Police Department chose to initiate the horse-mounted unit to promote visibility of the police department, to expand manpower, for crowd-control advantage, for mobility (previously, the sand dunes and alleyways had not been patrolled) and for searching for people. The Hampton Center detail deters shoplifters and directs traffic and has received some good comments for this duty. From Labor Day until December, the unit is in the center of Hampton five days a week. The Unit is especially valuable on Hallowe’en when it patrols neighborhoods resulting in less vandalism and damage.

Horse and rider can cover up to nine miles per hour comfortably. To cover the beach from Boar’s Head to Hampton River takes about an hour, according to Deputy Chief Pelletier who reminded us that the Hampton Mountie stops to talk to people on the beach, to answer questions and to render assistance, if needed. To effect an arrest, the mounted policeman remains in the saddle to maintain his vantage point. If the arrested person is non-combatant, the officer reaches down and does a simplified pat search, handcuffs the person and walks the person up to the cruiser or van which can take the arrested person to the station for booking. If the arrested person is combatant, the horse is used to contain the arrested person by using leg aids and the movements of the horse. If necessary, in his opinion, a Mountie may dismount but this is a judgement call left to the discretion of the officer.

The Hampton Mounties ride Tennessee Walking horses. At the Tidewater Camp Ground, the horses are tended by Wally Shaw who provided the stable and adjoining paddocks to the Hampton Police Department. Shaw cleans the stables and paddocks, feeds and waters the horses, maintains the fencing, stalls and barns and sees to the health and well-being of the horses. He stores 500 bales of hay in the loft of the barn which is immaculate and the horses seem at ease.

Ellen McDermott, 19, Hampton — daughter of Judge McDermott — attends Emmanuel College during the academic year but for now, she is the groom at the stables. It is her job to keep the Tennessee Walkers glistening clean and to saddle the horses before loading them in the trailer for their trip to the beach each day.

The Tennessee Walking horse, once known as the Turnrow for its ability to inspect crops row by row without damaging the plants, has its foundation on a Standardbred stallion. Naturally amiable and good tempered, the Walker is claimed to be the most comfortable horse in the world. The feature of the breed is the pace, a four-beat glide, half walk and half run, that transmits scarcely any movement to the rider. His three easy, effortless gaits are a flow, flat-footed walk, a springy canter (called his “rocking chair” gait) and his famous running walk.

Under the Operations Division, headed by Deputy Chief Dennis S. Pelletier, the Hampton Mounted Police Unit consists of Commanding Officer, Sergeant John Galvin, Hampton, who rides RASTA; his brother Patrolman Joe Galvin, Hampton, who rides MAGIC; Patrolman Andrew Annicelli, Hampton, on SUNDANCE; patrolman Lee Griffen, Hampton, on SCOUT; plus auxiliaries, Sergeant George Bateman, Hampton; and Deputy Chief Dennis S. Pelletier, Hampton; who might ride any of the above-named horses or another horse called PEACOCK. Horse and rider might work the regular 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to midnight shift or, on a busy weekend — 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. or 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. On this past 4th of July, they worked 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Officers ride every week. Scheduled training sessions are held once a month conducted by Galvin and Pelletier. Pelletier started riding when he was about ten years old in Western Massachusetts, He was born in Waltham, Mass.

When an opening occurs for a rider for this Unit, a notice of the opening is posted. The notice would appear in the local newspapers. All applicants, 21 years of age or older (a qualification for employment by the Hampton Police Department) will be accepted for a try-out which includes sitting and walking around on the horse to judge if the applicant is comfortable. A video camera is used so that the try-out might be studied. An interview with Pelletier and Galvin follows. Females would be considered for such a position.

Hampton Mounties are a respected unit of law enforcement, protecting residents and visitors.

See also, The Mounted Patrol: A Hit At Hampton Beach,
and Hampton Beach Police Keep Up Pace.