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Mounted unit mixes volunteers and sworn officers

Talk about standing out in a crowd.

For several years now, one of the most popular staples at community events has been the Boulder City Mounted Police.

“We originally piloted a program in 2008, which ran off and on for about eight years,” BCPD officer Scott Pastore said. “I created the program to see if it would be a value to the department and the community. We were an unofficial unit, at the time, but we were attached to UNLV and Metro’s mounted patrols.”

When Tim Shea became BCPD’s new chief in 2016, he decided it was time to make the mounted patrol official. They had their debut on July 4, 2016, in the parade and have since been in dozens of community events with even more scheduled for 2024, with 28 already on their calendar.

“Seven and a half years later, and we’re doing really well,” Pastore said. “We have officers in the unit as well as volunteers, who are non-sworn personnel.”

He said the original intent of the team was three-fold and what is used across the country. Better known as the three Cs (crime, community and crowds), mounted police officers focus on all three, often at the same time.

“You are often the bridge between the community and the police department,” he said. “Who doesn’t like a horse to walk up to? You can’t walk up to a K-9 and pet it, nor can you walk up to a patrol car and pet it, either. I’ve had people from all walks of life walk up to me and ask to take a picture. I’ve even had biker gangs do the same.

“This adds an element of policing that I feel is lost today, which is the community aspect. There’s no other unit or division within a police department that does more to bridge that gap with the community than does a mounted unit.”

Since a mounted patrol both figuratively and literally stand out in a crowd, the officers can help with crowd patrol but all have a bird’s-eye view any time whether it’s a potential crime taking place, missing child or medical incident.

“We’re kind of a beacon that stands out in a crowd or the lifeguard at the beach,” he said.

The group also does patrols in the desert to help provide water to homeless individuals and on occasion, check to see if people have any outstanding warrants or check for any nefarious activities going on. That’s in addition to search and rescue assistance calls.

Currently, the team has two sworn officers, Bob Dante being the other, as well as six volunteer riders, who fall under the purview of BCPD’s volunteer unit. They have had as many as four sworn officers but as Pastore explained, if those officers move to a different division within the department or move away completely, replacing them is not always easy.

“If you don’t have horse experience, you’re starting from the ground up and that can be a bit challenging,” he said. “We always have officers say they’d like to join but it’s one of those things where you admire something but getting out there and doing it is a different story. Our goal is to get back to four officers, so hopefully someday we will.”

Pastore said the mounted unit is 100% self-funded, which is why they rely upon private and corporate donations to help cover the costs. It’s around $32,000 a year to help feed, house and transport their six horses. That’s where Friends of the Boulder City Police Department Mounted Unit steps in with fundraisers, which included the recent pumpkin patch.

“I’m here (at the corrals) twice a day, seven days a week,” he said. “I get paid the same whether I’m on a horse or in a patrol car but when I’m here, that’s on my own time. But this is part of my lifestyle. The volunteers, who are the backbone of this group, are often out here three or four days a week.”

One of those volunteers is Dawn Lee, who serves as the unit coordinator. Assisting her with social media is Tawny Biggs.

“When I started in this, there was not a whole lot of awareness and in the past three years, with the community’s support, that’s changed. Without that support, we couldn’t do this,” Lee said. “Even the smallest donations to the largest, they’re all treated as true blessings.”

As to what he has enjoyed most about being a member of the mounted police, Pastore grinned and said, “I love working with horses and always have ever since I was a kid. I grew up in that lifestyle. So for me, there’s no better place to be than in the saddle.”

For more information, to volunteer or donate, visit bcnv.org/269/BCPD-Volunteer-Program.

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