County rolls out mounted deputy program


Laura Syring of Hugo helps train the reserve deputies and their horses. She commends the unit’s 10 volunteers, calling their willingness to support the sheriff’s office and the community “impressive.” photos courtesy of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office

Alongside his horse, Marc Asch, a reserve deputy with RCSO’s mounted patrol unit, greets a group of children at a Hot Dog with a Deputy event. courtesy of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office

Eventually, the mounted patrol unit will patrol larger parks within the county and participate in search and rescue missions. courtesy of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office

Deputies on horseback may seem like a thing of the past, but they’re no strangers to Ramsey County — not anymore. 

Last fall, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office rolled out its mounted patrol program and according to John St. Germain, commander for the department’s water patrol unit, “this spring, they really came out running.” 

Currently the horses and riders are doing community outreach at the Hot Dog with the Deputy events, but as they receive more training, the unit will eventually be used for regular park patrol and search and rescue missions.

St. Germain says the 10-person unit of volunteer reserve deputies has been showing up — on horses — at various outdoor community events in the department’s seven contract cities. Ramsey County provides police services to Arden Hills, Little Canada and Shoreview, among others.

“Ten volunteers is a pretty good start for such a new program,” St. Germain says, noting that each person provides their own horse and transportation. He says some of the volunteers are from outside Ramsey County. 

According to St. Germain, the volunteers go through reserve deputy training to learn how to write reports, administer first aid, provide police support and other skills to assist full-time deputies as well as community members.

“On top of all that,” St. Germain adds, “there’s horse training.”

Laura Syring works part time at the sheriff’s department to help train the mounted deputies and their horses. 

She says while the group collectively has “several hundred years of experience with horses,” the horses do need specific skills to be successful in certain environments. “It takes some fine-tuning,” she says.

“Crowds, drones, ambulances ... With all the noises and sensory stimuli, it takes a very calm, grounded horse,” Syring says. “That’s what we’re looking for.”

Though, the most significant thing, she adds, is a “strong relationship and bond” between horse and deputy.  

For now, the unit has mainly been attending the Hot Dog with a Deputy community events. 

“That’s our first mission,” Syring says. “It’s a good testing and training ground, a good place for us to start.”

And she says the community seems to agree, with an “absolutely, overwhelmingly positive” reaction at the events, which have been taking place almost weekly all summer.

Syring says the mounted deputies’ main goal at the events is to act as ambassadors for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office. 

St. Germain says that’s a good starting point, but the unit’s role won’t end there. 

“Community outreach is so important and this is another way for people to connect with deputies,” he says. “And there are other advantages to having a mounted deputy program as well.” 

Eventually — perhaps later this summer, according to both St. Germain and Syring — the mounted deputies will start patrolling some of the larger parks in the county. 

St. Germain says being on the large animals makes the reserve deputies more visible in the parks, “and more approachable.” 

According to St. Germain and Syring, folks have really taken a liking to visiting with the horses.  

It won’t end there, they say. 

Search and rescue training is in the works, for both rural and urban settings. 

“This unit can cover a lot of ground quickly when looking for someone,” Syring says, noting that, once properly trained, the sheriff’s office could help provide aid using horses to other counties and law enforcement agencies as well. 

St. Germain and Syring both call the volunteers “impressive.”

“These volunteers really do provide everything except their uniforms,” Syring says. “Trucks, trailers, horses, time — they’re giving a lot of themselves to do this.”

The next few Hot Dog with a Deputy events — all taking place from 5 to 7 p.m. — are scheduled for July 11 at Polar Lakes Park in White Bear Township, Aug. 8 at Pioneer Park in Little Canada, Aug. 10 at Commons Pavilion in Shoreview, Aug. 16 at Tony Schmidt Regional Park in Arden Hills and Aug. 22 at North Oaks Rec Center in North Oaks.

 

- Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815.


 

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