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Pardners in Crime

March 28, 2004|MICHAEL T. JARVIS

The Mounted Platoon of the Los Angeles Police Department has 35 full-time sworn police officers and supervisors based at the 2-acre Ahmanson Equestrian Facility adjacent to Griffith Park. Established in 1987 as part of the Metropolitan Division, the unit provides horsepower for crowd control at large public events and often patrols on horseback in high-crime areas. We rounded up some mounted officers for a little horse sense.

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Rudy De Leon, 53, with Rafael

How long in the unit?

Fourteen years. I think everyone in our unit learned to ride right here.

What is Rafael like?

He and I have partnered for nine years. He has his flaws and I have mine. He does things he doesn't want to do because he trusts me.

What is surprising about the job?

We work the worst parts of a division with the intent to make arrests.

Occupational hazards?

You're a deterrent just by your presence. On the other hand, we are a big target.

Strangest stop on horseback?

I've stopped cars. They get caught in traffic so you catch up with them.

Are horses good enforcers?

About a block from Central station, I watched two officers ride up. There was a group there involved in criminal activity. They jumped down, grabbed these guys and they're searching them. The horses took off down the street back to the horse trailers. They decided their shift was over.

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Art Aguirre, 41, with Boomer

How long in the unit?

Four years.

What is Boomer like?

He's like a juvenile delinquent. He's always trying to bite the other horse or taking these teeny little steps, and before you know it, you're 5 feet from where you were.

What reactions do you get?

You're riding and you're on your cellphone drinking your Starbucks. Cars come up and they want to take a picture. They think it's hilarious.

You can drink coffee on a horse?

Absolutely. Why not?

Can we talk bathroom breaks?

There was a demonstration downtown with people sitting in the intersection.They wanted to be arrested. The intersection was on a slant. The horses were on the higher part. A giant stream was coming straight where they were sitting.

Did they move?

Yeah.

Are there horse groupies?

To an extent. They're petting your horse and before you know it they're petting your leg. It didn't happen to me. I saw this. My wife's on the job.

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Donna Shoates, 37, with Doc

How long in the unit?

Six months assigned to the unit and a six-week school last year. They had to show me where the tail was and where the head was.

Do you partner with a horse?

I ride different horses. I'm new and I'm getting to know their personalities. My relationship is just maintaining control and being kind but also staying stern because horses will take advantage if you let them.

Occupational hazards?

Getting bucked off, stepped on. Some horses, if they're not feeling ready to be ridden or they're tired, their attitude gets a little funky.

Miconceptions about horses?

People think the horses are dope-sniffing horses. We'll [ride] up and the [criminal is] like, "Here you go. I knew that was a dope-sniffin' horse."

Your favorite cowboy as a kid?

Kevin Costner looks good on a horse.

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Joe Nepomuceno, 41, with Shadow

How long in the unit?

Seven years.

What don't people know about this job?

We put a lot of people in jail. Everywhere we're deployed is a fast track where they do high crime.

What's easier on a horse?

Consensual stops. Even criminals approach and ask about your horse.

Your strangest assignment?

Probably the Democratic National Convention in 2000. The anarchists there had trained in how to take mounted officers down.

On the lighter side?

When I was new in the unit, we were down at Venice Beach trying to look cool on the beach. Right in front of all these girls in bikinis and stuff, I noticed my horse was looking down. Then he just laid down. Horses like to roll in the sand. He rolled over in front of all these girls. Needless to say, I didn't come back to that side of the beach.

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