June 2014 Issue - page 10

Page 10
June 2014
Lancaster City’s Own Fab Four Protect the Safety of the Public
(Continued on page 38)
by Crystal Piaskowski
They’re big. They’re strong.
And they’re here to keep a
solid hoof on the fast-moving
streets of Lancaster City. Duke,
Charlie, Liam, and Ozzy are
the proud stars of the Lancaster,
PA Mounted Police Unit, along
with Lieutenant Timothy Frey,
Detective Sergeant Sonja
Stebbins, and Mounted Officers
Wayne McVey, Eric Lukacs, and
Scott McDonald. The mounted
unit does everything that police
officers in cars do: answer 911
calls, go to domestics, report
thefts and burglaries, issue traffic
and parking tickets…except it is
all from the broad backs of their
trusty horses.
Hay, Oats, and
Officer Badges
In addition to chasing bad
guys, the officers are assigned
horses and take care of their
daily upkeep, including groom-
ing and feeding. For 20 years,
the equine division shared stall
space with the doe-eyed pet-
ting farm animals in Long’s
Park’s red barn until, in 2000,
a widespread campaign raised
funds specifically to build the
current barn. Still situated in
Long’s Park, just west of the
city, the new barn now has four
individual stalls, a wash bay, a
tack room, as well as an upstairs
half-hay loft, half-work space
with a bathroom and refrigerator.
The tack room is like any other
in the horse world—brimming
with equipment and molasses
cookies—except word POLICE
emblazoned on halters, breast-
collars, and saddlebags, along
with personalized badges for
each of the horses. “The badg-
es are new…now people know
which horse is which, and I
only have to answer all of the
other questions,” laughs Officer
Wayne McVey, a police veteran
of 20 years with 15 of those
being with the mounted unit.
“The number one question we
answer is why we don’t allow
them to eat while they’re on duty.
At home, they have at it, we have
all different types of treats, but
some people would love nothing
more than to pull one over on the
police and stick something in a
treat. It’s not worth the risk.”
Horses have proven to be
a distinctive way of policing
the city, in more ways than one.
Apart from the increased mo-
bility, visibility, and approach-
ability, the horses do have a few
quirks. “If we’re on a call, we’ll
use an extra lead rope to latch
them to a front porch, sign, or
street light. Usually they’ll just
stand there and hang out, but we
have to be careful about what’s
on the porch. We’ve had to
replace a lot of people’s flowers,
and then there’s just dirt every-
where, ripped out of flowerpots
and everything. We do replace
those, but we do need to be cog-
nisant about our surroundings,”
says Officer McVey.
Police Horse Requirements
The horses run the gamut
of ages and breeds, from the
smallest, a Quarter Horse named
Ozzy, to the oldest, a 13-year-old
Percheron named Duke, but they
are all massively muscular, even
by normal equine standards. The
newest addition, Officer McVey’s
bright bay mount Charlie, is a
hefty 2,222 pounds and nearly 18
hands high. While the horses are
primarily chosen for their temper-
ament and unflappability, most
mounted units select drafts or draft
crosses. “They have the height and
the breadth necessary for crowd
control and easy visibility, and
we’ve learned that most drafts are
pretty low-key and not high strung
like some of the Thoroughbreds
or Quarter Horses. If we’re on
the job, I can’t be worrying about
my horse spooking at everything
or being flighty,” says Officer
McVey. “We tend to find them
easier to train and more eager to
please. They don’t like being told
they can’t do something. There’s a
mentality there that we like.”
The horses need to not only
be a substantial size for crowd
control, but also sturdy enough to
carry the officers and their gear.
Year-round they wear bulletproof
vests that weigh more than 20
pounds, and in the winter, they
add heavy leather jackets to
the mix. “There’s some serious
weight to our outfits. We mostly
From left to right: Officer Scott McDonald and Ozzy, Officer Wayne McVey and Charlie, and Officer
Eric Lukacs and Liam proudly show off the horses’ new official name badges. In addition, the horses
wear reflective leg bands for increased visibility and roached manes so potential perpetrators cannot
hang onto their manes in an altercation.
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