Broken Arrow Police Department to form mounted patrol unit


By John Dobberstein, Editor

After blazing trails with the purchase of a Tesla police vehicle, the city of Broken Arrow will soon usher in a more traditional policing method regaining popularity.

City councilors Tuesday authorized the Broken Arrow Police Department to begin the process of forming a mounted patrol unit to work major events, help with certain incidents and investigations and engage in community outreach.

Once training and deployment is complete it would make Broken Arrow one of only three police departments in the Tulsa metro area to have such a unit.

Broken Arrow police have been studying the feasibility of such a unit for several months. Its usefulness was brought to light recently when officers mounted on horses located a man who had been missing for several days.

The mission was successful because the horses helped the officers see over thick vegetation and aid cadaver dogs in the search. Although the man unfortunately had passed away, police were able to return him to his family for a proper memorial, said BAPD Det. Conner Poole.

Believing the unit would “lend meaningful support to special event management, directed patrol operations, searches, ceremonies such as parades and funerals, public relations, and a wide variety of other scenarios,” police officers and detectives put together a proposal for a part-time, collateral duty mounted patrol unit that includes acquiring equipment, training, operations, care and transportation.

As the city continues to host larger events and add new ones, crowd control is one challenge for the department.

“Inside these events that are very heavily populated, it’s difficult for officers on the ground or on foot patrol to be able to manage their way through these crowds,” Poole said. “What happens with most of these mounted officers is if they need to get to an incident that occurs inside the crowd, the crowd will actually move around those horses, like water around a rock.

“It’s very manageable inside those populated areas and helpful as far as visibility -- not only for the officer but with the public. If someone lost a small child, it’s very easy for them to look across the crowd and see an elevated police officer. You’re not only getting help as soon as possible but saving crucial minutes or even seconds.”

Other duties for the unit could be getting the attention of a crowd to disperse if severe weather is approaching, or serving with the Honor Guard in ceremonies for fallen officers.

The unit will be staffed with full-time officers as a part-time “specialty unit.” The horses would be commissioned as “reserve officers” so they will be on duty when deployed.

When not deployed the horses will remain the personal property of the police officer and the officer is responsible for the horse’s care.

Before the unit can deploy, any horses and riders must attend accredited training, which will likely be carried out by Randy Garner, a certified trainer for the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office. The training is free for law enforcement.

BAPD already owns some of the equipment needed for the unit or shares it with Broken Arrow Animal Control. “Because these units are rare it would make Broken Arrow stand out as a leader among cities,” Poole said.

The city agreed to use $15,000 from the public safety sales tax fund to acquire uniforms and pay for tack, saddles, saddle blankets and special bridles that are needed for the animals to do police work.

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