Sheriff’s office looks to create volunteer mounted patrol unit

Published 3:25 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Polk County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Michael Capps wants to see how many community members would volunteer themselves and their horses to assist the sheriff’s office in various community activities.

Capps plans to host an informational meeting regarding the creation of a Polk County Sheriff’s Mounted Patrol Thursday, June 2 at 6 p.m. at the Womack Building, across from the Polk County Courthouse.

The first meeting will be aimed at casting a net to see who exactly is interested, Capps said.

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Patrol volunteer applicants must be at least 21 years of age, a U.S. citizen and a resident of Polk County or an adjoining county. Applicants must have access to a horse, horse trailer and vehicle to pull, approved by the department for use in mounted patrol functions and training. A criminal background check will be conducted on all applicants and those applying must complete the department-approved equestrian training program before being accepted into the mounted patrol.

The unit will be utilized in situations that do not involve dangerous activities, but it may be called upon for special details including search and rescue, crowd control and security, parades, crime scene security and public relations.

“You know when you are walking through a dark parking lot with your family into a community event and you see those officers on the horses,” Capps said. “it just makes you feel safer.”

Capps said he’d even like to see these volunteers helping on a regular basis at high school football games and other future community events such as the Block House Steeplechase and the Blue Ridge Barbecue and Music Festival.

“It gets the public involved with the sheriff’s office. We’re here to work for the public but anything we can do to interact with the public and get the public to recognize us obviously helps the sheriff’s office,” Capps said.

Lt. Capps first mentioned the prospect of starting a mounted patrol about a year ago. He said it gives the office another set of eyes during events and an increased presence. With Polk County being such an equestrian area, the office has had a lot of people interested in the idea, Capps said.

Henderson County developed its unit 14 years ago.

“We turned to Henderson County for a lot of their information because they have had a successful unit up there for quite a while,” Capps said. “As for the kind of members we’re looking for, you are going to be representing the sheriff’s department so you have to be of good character.”

Sue Truitt, an equestrian trainer and instructor, will guide the volunteers through some basic checks for their and their horses’ skill levels.

Capps said Truitt would also work closely with Henderson County’s unit to mirror some of the procedures they use. An outside third party, Wallace Mooney, will provide the final clearance for horse and patrolman, Capps said.

“This isn’t something I want to throw together and it be some rinky-dink kind of thing,” Capps said. “There is going to be quite of bit of training involved but I don’t want that to deter anyone.”

Patrol members will continue to go through training at least once a month. Getting certified for the volunteer positions could likely take training two to three times a month.