Porter County Sheriff's Department

In the Media

Sheriff's Department to use horses

Mounted division search for missing people and crowd control.

Taken From the Times - November 1999


Police dispatchers Chris Sears, at left atop
 Gerry, and Susan Baugher, riding Bo, are
 spearheading formation of a Porter County
 Sheriff's Department mounted division.

The Newest Cop? It's a Horse, Of Course

VALPARAISO -- People may soon see police officers on horses riding around Porter County.

The Porter County Sheriff's Department's mounted division, which disbanded 20 years ago, is being brought back for 
special operations like missing person searches and crowd control at events.
The horses also will be used to get around the fairgrounds and parks during events, to appear in parades and to do presentations at schools. The mounted division is accepting applications and should be operational by next year's Porter County Fair. "I'd like to see it be at least 25 to 30 strong," said police dispatcher Chris Sears, who is spearheading the project along with dispatcher Susan Baugher. Sears plans to ride her horse Gerry, and Baugher plans to use her horse Dream. Both have begun training with their animals. And they are recruiting other members of the Sheriff's Department and other area police departments to join. They would also like to have people who are not in law enforcement become Sheriff's Department reserve officers and mounted division members. So that the Sheriff's Department budget isn't impacted, members will be required to purchase and care for their own horses. Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds said that when he was Portage police chief, he got mounted divisions from other jurisdictions to come to Portage for crowd control during a KKK rally.

"They were quite effective," Reynolds said. He also saw Lake County's mounted division in a parade and thought it had a good presence. "I think having horses (in law enforcement) is  kind of a good fit," Reynolds said. Horses are not going to replace squad cars for daily patrols or high-speed chases, but they can be valuable, Lt. Robert Herring said. Herring rode with the mounted division on several occasions before it disbanded in 1979 or 1980. If the mounted division was fully operational earlier this year, it could have been used to help search for missing rural Valparaiso resident Lorraine Kirkley. Since the 34-year-old nurse disappeared from her home July 21, the Sheriff's Department has been searching for her body in fields and wooded areas. Their searches would have gone quicker if the department had officers on horses. Horses can easily travel at 4 mph for six to eight hours. And the officers would have had a better view from atop the horses. Eventually, the mounted division may be split into two parts, one for law enforcement operations like searches, and the other for ceremonial purposes like parades. "I see it being beneficial," Sears said. "I guess right now the possibilities are endless."

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