Spotlight Series: Mounted Enforcement Unit Fights Crime From Horseback
Photos by Halie Cook
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Mounted Enforcement Detail is known for patrolling the county’s more troubled inner city parks and is usually seen at large events around the city. What many Santa Clarita natives don’t realize is that even in a small city like this, mounted patrol officers are still looking out for trouble.
There are over 150 parks in Los Angeles County and the Mounted Enforcement Unit focuses most of their time on 20 of those parks, primarily inner-city, that have a history of crime and gang activity.
“My team and I get on our trusty steads and patrol the park and vicinity looking for criminal activity,” said Sgt. David Sauer, the officer in charge of the unit for Los Angeles County. “People smoking, drinking, doing drugs, vandalizing, graffiti, gang activity, and the myriad of things that would detract from having a good time in the park.”
Sauer says the most common crimes the unit runs into are weapons violations, and drug-and-alcohol violations.
“It’s funny because horses can sneak up on people. You wouldn’t think that a big animal like that would be easy to sneak up on people, but when people are focused on what their doing – whether they’re walking along the street or whether they are tagging the side of a water tank horses can sneak right up to them,” said Sauer. “It’s pretty funny to see the surprised look on people’s faces.”
Officers snuck up on two men tagging the water tower in Veteran’s Park, prompting the suspects to drop their spray cans and make a run for it – right into a backyard birthday party.
The taggers then asked the partygoers to “hide them” as they are running from the police. What they didn’t know was that the party was for an off-duty police officer and all the guests were also part of the force.
“You know it’s not your day when you run from one set of cops right into the arms of another set of cops. Don’t buy a lotto ticket today dude,” said Sauer.
As a part of the force, deputies have to be able to respond quickly in high-stress incidents. Officers were put to the test in April 2015 when three deputies on horseback approached a suspicious car that was parked in a secluded area of the park with the driver inside.
Deputies suspected there was a drug-deal happening and asked the driver some standard questions. The suspect became violent and overpowered the three deputies and managed to grab a hold of an arm and take off in the car. He floored the gas peddle, sending dirt flying in all directions and dragging one deputy with him. At this point, one of the officer’s pulled his weapon and shot at the suspect. He missed but left the suspect disoriented for long enough for the deputy to free himself. The suspect was later arrested and charged for multiple crimes.
“My favorite part of the job is working with the guys that I work with,” said Sauer. “We started our friendship riding horses together for the police department and here we are riding horses together full-time.”