Summit County Sheriff’s Office resurrects mounted patrols
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office has recruited several four-legged volunteers to join the department as part of an effort to resurrect mounted police patrols.
Sheriff Justin Martinez was joined by members of the Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday in the Henefer Fourth of July parade to debut the newly formed Mounted Sheriff’s Posse. The group donned cowboy hats and uniforms emblazoned with “Sheriff’s Posse.”
“The reception was phenomenal,” Martinez said. “People were so excited to see myself and others on horseback and riding in the parade. We just wanted to bring something back that has been missing from the Sheriff’s Office for a while.”
The Sheriff’s Office began using horses for search and rescue operations more than a year ago after crew members realized the animals could effectively cover distances and terrain that volunteers on foot or off-road vehicles were unable to reach.
The practice evolved into a conversation about using horses for other areas of law enforcement, not just search and rescue.
“We just started thinking, ‘What else can we do with these horses?” Martinez said.
Martinez invited a master horse trainer down from Wyoming last month to educate deputies and himself on the merits of using a horse for law enforcement purposes. The horses were volunteered by search and rescue members, as well as deputies with the Sheriff’s Office.
“We desensitized them to loud noises and just did everything we could to get them prepared to go out with us for search and rescue, patrols or to walk in parades,” he said.
Mounted patrols were also deployed this week for the Oakley Rodeo and Fourth of July celebration to monitor parking lots and create a visible presence of law enforcement.
“Our operations are currently 95 percent public relations,” Martinez said. “We’re being visible and we’re out there. Our deputies can always tie up the horse and take law enforcement action as appropriate. That is our focus at this time. But, it could evolve into something more. We will just have to wait and see if there is a need.”
Martinez primarily plans to deploy the group for events such as the Oakley Rodeo, Kamas Fiesta Days, Summit County Fair and Francis Frontier Days. He said the group will participate in parades, as well as patrol the areas throughout the duration of the events.
Martinez said he hopes the program continues to grow, eventually including events like the Sundance Film Festival. Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter also participated in the horse training last month.
But, one of the downfalls of implementing mounted patrols is needing immediate access to horses. Martinez said he did not plan on making any budget commitments to the program at this time.
“Park City definitely has a need for something like this,” he said. “But, they don’t have as many officers with horses and we are not anywhere close to being ready for that type of situation, but maybe in the future we will be.”
Many law enforcement agencies across the country have rich histories involving mounted patrol units. It is unclear if the Summit County Sheriff’s Office had a mounted posse similar to the one Martinez is introducing. But, he doesn’t think he is biting off more than he can chew. He simply views the mounted posse as a way to reconnect with the community.
“The reception we have seen is people are into it,” he said. “It’s new for most of us. But, they see the deputies and see Sheriff’s Posse and they obviously understand that those are law enforcement officers. Many have never seen it before, but they are very receptive to it.”
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