Police saddle up to children
The South Lake Tahoe Police Department wants to show kids that cops can horse around too.
Mounted police officers Chuck Owens, Rebecca Inman and Jeff Reagan hosted a horse camp for 9- and 10-year-old children Friday as part of a community outreach program.
“I think it really helps for kids to get to know police officers on a personal basis because kids look at police officers as unapproachable authority figures and we don’t want that,” Cmdr. Rich McGuffin said. “We want kids to feel that they can approach any officer they want to. They will be able to look past the badge and see the person.”
Reagan said the camp is part of a larger effort by the Police Department to improve and strengthen their relationship with the community.
“Right now the department is focusing on community policing,” Reagan said. “The administration has asked officers to come up with innovative ideas that may not have ever been done before. We decided to introduce this program to give kids the opportunity to come and learn about police horses and have real close contact with police officers.”
Owens, Inman and Reagan all have experience with horses. They use their own animals for the department’s mounted patrol. Each gave a presentation about how to care for horses and respect them.
“We try to fit in safety and responsibility,” Inman said. “We talk about our responsibility as far as being a good citizen, taking care of your pets, family and friends. We are here to make the kids realize that police are good.”
While there was no riding involved with the one-day camp, Reagan said he hopes to expand the program next summer to incorporate it with the Police Activities League horseback riding program.
Camper Sherilyn Horvatich, 10, said she enjoyed being around the horses and learning about them.
“I think it is a good camp for kids because it teaches you a lot,” Horvatich said. “It is fun and you have a good time.”
McGuffin said horses are excellent for crowd control and responding to calls in the undeveloped areas around the city. He also noted that mounted patrol often meets with a better public perception than other law enforcement units.
“(Mounted patrol) is largely for public relations because people have the opportunity to interact with them,” McGuffin said. “It isn’t like they are driving by at 40 mph. Horses attract kids, parents, grandparents.”
Camper Rebecca Suela, 10, said the camp has helped her to feel more comfortable around police officers.
“I think people should actually thank police officers because they are very helpful and they are very nice,” Suela said.
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