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Pa. PD disbands mounted unit

The move will put more officers on patrol, saving the department in officer overtime pay

Pa. PD disbands mounted unit

“We thought it would be a good idea to get out and just say hello and allow the kids to see the horses and show our support,” said Dancause, who mentioned her son’s favorite horse is King.

Lancaster PA Bureau of Police via Facebook

By Olivia M. Miller
LNP, Lancaster, Pa.

LANCASTER, Pa. — A stable in Long’s Park, which has been home to the Lancaster city police mounted unit, filled with people Saturday bidding farewell to the unit after 44 years of service.

“I just want to thank the public for all their support throughout the years. I mean, it’s what has kept us going,” said Lancaster city police Officer Gregory Berry, who has been with the department for 24 years and a mounted unit officer for nine years.

In September, the City of Lancaster announced the disbandment of its police mounted horse patrol, as well as the fire department’s Station 6. Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace said the decision was made to save money and have more officers on patrol.

While the mounted unit operates on donations and fundraisers, moving the officers to patrol will help with the department’s overtime costs, which police Chief Richard Mendez said earlier amounts to an estimated $900,000 this year. When it comes to the number of officers, the department is approved for 145 but only has 115, with an expected six to eight retirements due in the coming months.

Saturday’s gathering was expected to draw around 500 people throughout the day, according to Berry. Alongside the stables, which were open to see and pet the horses, was a tent with cakes donated by Central Manor Bakery, coffee from Speckled Hen and barbecue from Mission BBQ.

Among the attendees was Megan Dancause, 34, with her 2-year-old son, Archie Wysock. Even though Dancause lives in Mount Joy, she said she and her son are in Lancaster city often because they use a day care there.

“We thought it would be a good idea to get out and just say hello and allow the kids to see the horses and show our support,” said Dancause, who mentioned her son’s favorite horse is King.

King was one of three horses in the mounted unit, alongside Jake and Angus, who joined the team in July. One part-time and three full-time officers, including Berry, made up the unit. The officers help take care of the horses, starting and ending their shifts at the stables.

“They felt that the three of us would be more effective in cars rather than on horses,” Berry said. “Obviously, none of us are happy about it, but it is what it is.”

Berry said the mounted unit’s horses are an “ice breaker,” describing how they personalize officers to the public.

“Most people aren’t going to just generally walk up to a police car and strike up a conversation with a police officer,” he said. “With the horses, you’re right out there amongst everybody.”

In about two weeks, the plan is for the horses to be taken to their new homes which haven’t been finalized yet, according to Berry. The officers will continue their work, only out of police cars.

In October, an online petition was created in the hopes of reversing Sorace’s decision to disband the mounted unit. As of Saturday night it had over 1,500 signatures.

When asked for comment Saturday, Sorace responded via email: “This decision was made after careful consideration and consultation with the Bureau of Police. The Mounted Unit has served the community for decades, and its discontinuation is a difficult but necessary step. Public safety remains the City’s top priority, and these changes are crucial to maintaining a high standard of public safety. I am grateful for the outpouring of support for officers and horses alike and look forward to our continuing partnership with the Lancaster City Police Foundation.”

The creator of the petition, Suzanne Harman, 59, of Mountville, also attended Saturday’s farewell gathering. She said she has been a volunteer with the mounted unit for over 20 years.

“This is very near and dear to me,” Harman said. “I have seen what an impact they’ve had on our community, especially the bonding between our police officers and civilians in creating that bond and that trust.”

On the petition’s website last month, Harman said she went to the Oct. 10 Lancaster City Council meeting and plans to attend the next meeting on Nov. 14. She encouraged all to join her.


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