1. Archive

Here on the frontier, is it time to saddle up?

Published Sep. 26, 2005

Well, at least the next time Crystal River City Council members start waving pieces of fruit at each other and talking about violence, there might be a horse available for the requisite lynching.

Actually, James Farley, the new police chief there, has what might be a pretty neat idea both there and in other localities _ not only mounted police patrols but tying same in with sort of a pioneer Florida theme that isn't out of keeping with most of our architecture and some of our definitely 19th century political thinking.

Farley's main vision, and an understandable one, is having a couple of cops on duty who are, effectively, 12 feet tall and can run 40 mph.

"If you think about it," Farley said Monday, "being on horseback gives an officer an excellent platform to see what's going on, something that could be important with the number of festivals and similar events we have here. That could be real important in a situation with a lost child, for instance."

At the same time, he pointed out, the increased visibility would make the location of police officers easy to find for anyone who needed one.

And as an added bonus, the program Farley plans to present to the City Council on Valentine's Day (maybe horses are for lovers) is planned to cost no tax dollars _ which I'm fairly sure makes Farley the first law enforcement administrator to make such a recommendation in the history of Florida.

"We already have two experienced riders on the force who own their own horses," said Farley, although donated and specially trained mounts (unspookable by everything from gunfire to trying to cross U.S. 19) will be needed.

The thing is, the community likes the idea, Farley says.

Just the brief mention of his proposal in a recent newspaper story has brought an outpouring of support from area groups and businesses, including the Ocala Thoroughbred Association, which offered to donate a horse trailer.

"I'm getting a lot of good input from people in the community who want to support and sponsor this," said Farley, who commanded two mounted units during his 30-year career in South Florida: one with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and one with the Broward County Sheriff's Department.

And he also sees the possibility of a pioneer touch for the town that could have a hitching post in front of every business and a watering trough in front of every fast food store . . . well . . . maybe . . . but you have to admit that oats, under those conditions, might work as well as donuts.

And Crystal River politics have always been pretty much in the shoot-'em-up, ride-'em-out-of-town-on-a-rail vein.

The fruit reference in the first paragraph might be new for folks who don't live up there, but there actually was a City Council member one night who threw down on his fellow pols a banana that he asked them to consider a .357 Magnum pistol. Before one of them could lob a cell phone at him and ask him to consider it a hand grenade, he also asked them to consider his briefcase a bomb.

The guy, before voters sent him off to the happy hunting grounds for the terminally silly, was indeed concerned about terrorists striking at the heart of Crystal River government, apparently, thereby creating a nationwide swim-with-the-manatees-tour shortage.

That was an exception actually to the run of political flaps there, most of which run more to the "smile when you say that or I'll see your butt" type, but a little frontier justice might be just what Crystal River needs.

I forgot to ask Farley about one crucial issue, but ideas like this are best introduced slowly and minor problem areas addressed as they come up rather than all at once.

Besides, you have to know a police chief pretty well before you talk to him about diapering some of his troops.