Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Public safety

Mounted patrols gear up for RNC crowd control

TAMPA — For the past six months, they've lived large on the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Hits from the '80s and '90s blared. Country. Rock. Rap. The theme from Mighty Mouse.

Fireworks and gunfire exploded around them as they learned to work on teams. Undaunted, they kept at it, ignoring smoke and sounds of jeering mobs.

These months of work were practice. The real test begins soon.

These 48 horses will help control crowds during the Republican National Convention.

"When the crowds get out of control, we're the first line," said Cpl. Ellen Schantz of the Tampa Police Department.

The horses are outfitted with "riot gear" for facing off against protesters.

All Florida horses, they came from as far as Key West. Two are from the St. Petersburg Police Department. Ten work for the Tampa police and five for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

Schantz will lead the mounted patrol during the convention.

On Thursday, at a police exhibit of preparations for crowd patrol, she smacked her police baton against the shin of a horse.

He didn't budge. He wore padded leg gear, a chest shield and a face mask with a band covering his nose. His shoes made of a rubber and plastic composite will protect him against nails or glass. The gear runs about $1,000 per horse, Schantz said. Some was already in use. Equipping the horses for the convention, including saddles and bridles, cost about $38,000. The department says it spent $24,000 more for food and lodging. Funds for the mounted patrol came from a $50 million federal grant to pay for convention security, police said.

"They're invaluable for controlling crowds," said police Chief Jane Castor. Horses have a presence, she said, and allow an officer to see over a crowd.

Their sheer size can be intimidating, and when lined up this factor is multiplied.

They're quick in a foot chase.

Pepper spray and tear gas don't bother them.

"They just snort and sneeze and get over it," Schantz said.

One horse can do the work of eight ground officers, she said.

Schantz's horse, Tank, is a regular in Ybor City on Friday nights. Parade beads and merry crowds are not new to him. But the convention may bring a more violent crowd. So his training has been stepped up.

Mounted patrols will work 12-hour shifts with a break every two hours. Each team has 10 or 11 horses. They are a variety of breeds, mostly male.

"It takes a special horse to be a mounted patrol," said Hillsborough sheriff's Deputy Marla Tierney. Her horse, Buster, doesn't shy easily and he knows her every move. She's had him since he was 3 months old.

She scratched his belly. His lip started to quiver. She calls him her equine partner.

"You're trusting your partner to take care of you," she said. From his back, she has an extra set of eyes, ones she says can see almost 360 degrees. And ears she keeps an eye on to use his sensitive hearing.

At night, when most of the horses retreat to a 250-acre farm in Thonotosassa, Buster sleeps in her back yard.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3431.

Comments
Police: St. Pete man who pried a safe out of the wall in custody

Police: St. Pete man who pried a safe out of the wall in custody

ST. PETERSBURG — It took more than an hour for a 25-year-old man to break into a restaurant, pry a safe out of the wall, drag it through the back and then wrestle it into his car, according to police.That was last week. Michael Murphy was arrested Tu...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Search underway for North Carolina man missing from Tampa-based Carnival Paradise

Search underway for North Carolina man missing from Tampa-based Carnival Paradise

The U.S. Coast Guard was searching Tuesday for a 50-year-old North Carolina man who reportedly fell off a Tampa-based cruise ship.The Coast Guard Key West received a call from the cruise ship Carnival Paradise about 10 a.m. saying the man, Brian Lamo...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Deputies: 10th-grader brings loaded gun to Bradenton high school

Deputies: 10th-grader brings loaded gun to Bradenton high school

A Bradenton Bayshore High School student faces charges after he brought a gun on campus on Tuesday, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.Around 11:45 a.m., school resource officers were alerted by school staff that the student, a 10th-gra...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Police swarm Panama City street in apparent shootout

Police swarm Panama City street in apparent shootout

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Multiple law enforcement agencies have surrounded a Panama City apartment building where an active shooter is barricaded inside.City spokeswoman Caitlyn Lawrence says it’s still an active situation. The suspect has been firing on ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
FedEx driver, 22, dies in crash on Interstate 4

FedEx driver, 22, dies in crash on Interstate 4

TAMPA — A 22-year-old FedEx driver died on Interstate 4 Tuesday when a tire blew out on his freight truck, which veered into the path of a Chevrolet Volt, state troopers said. Two teen girls in the Volt survived the 10:21 a.m. crash. A photo shows ci...
Published: 05/22/18
Crime in Florida, Tampa Bay region decreased in 2017, data show

Crime in Florida, Tampa Bay region decreased in 2017, data show

Crime in Florida reached a 47-year low in 2017, according to state figures released Tuesday and touted as a "major announcement" by a Republican governor determined to win a U.S. Senate seat. The state’s total crime rate dropped by 6 percent from 201...
Published: 05/22/18

FDLE: Pasco couple scammed elderly employer out of $480,000

TAMPA — A Pasco County couple face dozens of charges after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said they stole more than $480,000 from their elderly employer.Chet Alan Ragsdale, 45, was arrested Monday on 28 counts of grand theft, 25 counts of ...
Published: 05/21/18
4 sinkholes open in The Villages retirement community

4 sinkholes open in The Villages retirement community

THE VILLAGES — Four sinkholes have opened up in a fast-growing retirement community in Florida, including one in front of a home that was abandoned months ago because of an earlier sinkhole. A spokeswoman for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office says t...
Published: 05/21/18
Florida man caught walking around naked with a bottle of cooking oil, deputies say

Florida man caught walking around naked with a bottle of cooking oil, deputies say

A Gulf Breeze man walked around a neighborhood naked while carrying a bottle of cooking oil, Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s deputies said.The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a homeowner at 8:30 p.m. on May 17 saying home security...
Published: 05/21/18
A man punched a pregnant, deaf woman and her service dog on a plane ride to Florida, police say

A man punched a pregnant, deaf woman and her service dog on a plane ride to Florida, police say

A man is accused of attacking a deaf couple and their service dog while they were travelling on a plane headed toward Orlando.The incident happened as Matthew Silvay, 30, and Hazel Ramirez, 21, were on Frontier Flight 1752 as it left Colorado Springs...
Published: 05/21/18