Mounted force: Horse patrols at work in October Mountain, Pittsfield state parks
PITTSFIELD — Horses and humans worked together this week, hoofing it through two local state parks to ensure hikers and campers are having a good time.
The mounted units from the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office and Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation jointly patrolled October Mountain State Forest on Tuesday and Pittsfield State Forest on Wednesday — the DCR's two largest parks.
Berkshire Sheriff Thomas Bowler said the patrols were part of an ongoing collaboration amongst the various law enforcement agencies in the commonwealth with officers paired with equine partners.
While the mounted units are used for crowd control and search and rescue, especially in the mountainous terrain of the Berkshires, they help foster a bond between police and the public.
"When you have a horse and officer both with the right personality, the mounted unit is very effective as public relations," Bowler said.
The sheriff's four-legged force was formed three years ago and consists of three horses certified to be part of a mounted unit and their riders who received reserve intermittent police training. The training gives the officers arrest powers, unlike the corrections officers at the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction, run by Bowler and his staff.
The horses are stabled on the jailhouse grounds, their care funded by donations through a nonprofit arm of the Sheriff's Office, according to Bowler.
Some select inmates are responsible for horses, a therapeutic relationship for those behind bars.
"They care for the horses, feed the horses, walk them in the training ring," Bowler said. "We've seen a drastic change of the inmates in our institution who deal with the horses."
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233