Mounted Police Officer Sean Lonergan
Hawthorne resident Sean Lonergan, chief mounted officer of the Westchester County Department of Public Safety.
How long have you been patrolling on horseback?
I’ve been a policeman for more than ten years and have been with the mounted unit since its inception three years ago. Our unit consists of four police officers and four horses.
Where exactly do you patrol?
Every day we’re going somewhere. If we don’t have a specific detail going—say, patrolling Cortlandt Town Center around the holidays—we are patrolling a county property like Rye Playland and Westchester Community College.
What does a typical work shift entail?
We report directly to our base at Muscoot Farm—that’s where we clean and load the trailer. About six hours of each eight-hour tour is spent on horseback. The rest is spent cleaning, feeding, and transporting the horses, plus lunch and breaks.
Are there advantages to patrolling on horseback?
On a horse, you can see a lot more—we can see across ten rows of cars in a large parking lot; in a vehicle, we can only see the row we’re in. And on the flip side, if someone needs help, they can see us more easily. Horses are also great for crowd control and getting to some of the more inaccessible park areas that rarely, if ever, see a police officer.
Not really. As a line item on a budget, horses are fairly inexpensive and incredibly cost-effective; they just require hay, grain, and water. And it’s certainly a greener way of patrolling.
Ever apprehend a criminal while on horseback?
After a big Culture Shock concert at SUNY Purchase, we observed a male who appeared to be intoxicated banging on a dorm window. He ended up breaking it. We arrested him for criminal mischief.
Are there any other mounted units in the county other than yours?
Mount Vernon has one and White Plains used to, but it was disbanded last spring. I don’t know why.
Is there anything you can’t do in the line of duty while on horseback?
We can’t transport someone we apprehend back to a police station—we call for a patrol car—but we can do most
everything else without dismounting, including write tickets, handcuff, and search suspects above the waist area.
Do you ride in the rain and snow?
We ride three-hundred sixty-five days a year—and the horses, because they get a thick winter coat, fare a lot better in the cold weather than we do.
How has riding affected you physically?
I’m definitely in better shape now. I have muscles that I never knew existed before, particularly in my calves and thighs.
Ever play cowboys and Indians growing up?
Actually, we played cops and robbers—and I was both of them, depending on the day.
photo by John rizzo