Patrol Still Seen as Doubtful for Season

By Alexander Plummer

Hampton Union, Friday, June 15, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON — With the Hampton Police Department’s Mounted Patrol unit “unlikely” to ride this summer the question of what to do in their stead was raised.

The horses were found severely underweight less than a month ago during a routine veterinarian examination, after which Police Chief Jamie Sullivan vowed police were, “going to determine how something like this occurred and make sure it never happens again.”

Deputy Chief Rich Sawyer said earlier this week that Blaze, Patriot, Buddy and Aarow are continuing to respond well to treatment. Police are awaiting a veterinarian’s report on the horses, he said.

“But they probably will not ride this summer,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer said that while the Mounted Patrol might not be in the picture this summer, the police have options they can exercise in case of an emergency.

“It’s not like replacing a patrolman; it’s a different issue,” he said. “If they are not going to be available, we would try to reach out to the Dover or Manchester forces if we need a mounted unit for tactical reasons or any other type of situation that comes up.”

According to Sawyer, the Police Department has no plan to bring in other horses to permanently replace the original unit.

“We have had a lot of offers from various people around town to replace the horses,” he said. “But that’s not something we could do, especially with all of the training that is needed for the horses to adapt to the environment of the beach and the crowds.”

The horses were housed and cared for at the Tidewater Campground on Route 1 in Hampton owned by Wally Shaw. The horses were moved from the campground to the Epping farm of former Hampton Police Deputy Chief Dennis Pelletier, who led the creation of the unit in 1981. The unit was founded as a way to respond to crowd control issues that plagued Hampton Beach in 1979 and 1980.

The Mounted Patrol continued to serve through last summer as a highly visible unit of the Police Department at the beach, particularly during evening events such as fireworks displays and other attractions like the Seafood Festival.

Hampton police have described the horses as both an effective means of positive public relations and a way to control large crowds. In addition to being visible, the riders are able to see over the crowd atop the tall, bay Tennessee walking horses.

The unit also came in handy during the July 4 drowning of two Massachusetts men at Hampton Beach in 2005. Police used the horses to clear the beach in a relatively short period of time.

“It’s great that people care, and it is a loss,” Sawyer said of the horses’ anticipated absence this summer. “They were certainly something that we use for mobility in the sand, for crowd control, and as an overall deterrent. When people saw the horses there they felt the presence and it was also a great thing for families to approach on the beach.”