Mounted Patrol Needs Funds

Community Policing Unit Only
Partially Paid For By Department

By Adam Groff, {}

The Portsmouth Herald, Friday, December 29, 2001

[The following article is courtesy of The Portsmouth Herald and Seacoast Online.]
From left to right are officers Timothy Hamlen (on horse Sergeant),
Andy Jowett (on Blaze), Barry Newcomb (on Peacock)
and Joseph Jones (on the late Senator). [Courtesy photo]

HAMPTON — The end of 2001 marked the end of the 20th anniversary of the Hampton Police Department's famous Mounted Patrol. Unfortunately, it also marks the loss of two of the patrol's four horses, and the patrol has pumped up efforts to organize its fund-raising, as the unit is only partially funded by the town.

Because police officers may not directly solicit funds, last year the Hampton Mounted Patrol was set up as a nonprofit organization with a board of directors. Currently four in number, the directors provide fund-raising oversight and are not directly involved with the Hampton Police Department

Board member Kevin Crowley is an officer with the Nashua Police Department, but he grew up in Hampton Beach and remembers when the unit was first formed.

"You look at that, and you say 'That's Hampton,'" said Crowley. "If you want to talk about community policing, the horses are it. Parents and kids aren't afraid to come up to them and ask questions. And a lot of these guys do parades and funerals on their own time. The guys are hard-core and dedicated that are on that patrol."

Officer Andy Jowett and Blaze in the Town Parking Lot behind the Court House.
[Courtesy photo]

"The guys" are officers Tim Hamlen, Joe Jones, Andy Jowett and Barry Newcomb, supplemented by three alternate mounted patrol officers. Newcomb said he joined the patrol for a change of pace and because of the connections with the community that it enables.

"I work midnight shifts all winter long," said Newcomb. "(The Mounted Patrol) is outside, and there's more of an interaction with the public — it's a way to talk to people about the good things we're doing. Most people say the only time they see the police up close is when they see the blue lights flashing in their rear view mirror, so this is a different approach."

Jones said he joined because of the unit's camaraderie and, literally, high profile.

"When people hear you're with the Hampton Police Department, they always ask, 'Do you ride the horses?'" said Jones.

But public relations aside, patrol members say that when then-Deputy Chief Dennis Pelletier formed the unit in 1981, along with Officer John Galvin, it was to meet a real need at Hampton Beach, the unit's stomping grounds, as it were.

"One horse does the work of 10 officers," said Jones.

"(Pelletier) explained to me that 20 years ago, they had a lot of problems with crowd control around the casino and the bars," said Officer Tim Kerber, a part-time alternate patrol member. "Until you're standing next to a horse when they're in action, you forget what a tremendous presence they are."

In addition to giving officers greatly increased visibility over a crowd, the four horses are trained to move in formations such as the "chevron," a diagonal line that moves forward and effectively clears an area of people. Patrol members and horses go through 40 hours of training each year to maintain their skills.

"I can say from personal experience," said board member Crowley, "since the horses have been down there on Hampton Beach, that area has cleaned up a lot."

That is why last fall's loss of patrol horse Senator, to disease, was a blow to the unit. The blow is compounded by the fact that senior horse Peacock is 25 years old and ready for retirement, leaving only Sergeant and Blaze. Replacing a patrol horse is no easy task, say the officers. All the patrol horses are gelded males and Tennessee Walkers, a breed prized for its discipline and even temperament; they must not startle easily in the presence of crowds, automobiles, or even fireworks or gunshots. Kerber said that although there is a farm in Vermont that breeds Tennessee Walkers, most breeders are further west, like Wyoming, where the department may well have to go to find replacements.

"It's very important to get the right temperament of horse," said Kerber. "They've gone out and looked at dozens before finding the right one."

And at a cost of several thousand dollars, new horses are not covered by the departmental budget. Neither are new saddles, harnesses, or any other new equipment. The department only covers operating costs such as boarding and feeding the horses, for which the officers credit town resident Wally Shaw, who has boarded the town's patrol horses almost from the beginning.

The purchase of new horses is where Hampton Mounted Patrol comes in. The unit has sold merchandise, such as T-shirts, calendars and post cards for a long time, notably at last fall's Seafood Festival, but also on an ongoing basis at the group's Web site. The task of the new board of directors, which also includes Robert Cohen of Cohen's Jewelers, David Lavoie of Dave's Garage, and hotel owner John Oberak, is to develop a plan for more methodical fund raising.