Mounted police fight crime, engage the community in Manchester
MANCHESTER — You've probably seen them on the streets of Manchester. They fight crime with grace. Meet two members of the Manchester Police Department who have their eyes on you, just as much as you have your eyes on them.
The mission of police is to protect and serve. Officers on two legs have the duty of keeping all of us safe, but the officers on four legs do that and much more.
"It kind of bridges the gap because I think people feel a little more comfortable with the horses," said Officer Paul Rondeau. "It's a way of building trust."
"How you doing?" Officer Fred Gillis asked a man sitting on a bench. "Good," the man replied. "How are you?" The two exchanged as they went into a conversation about the man's current living situation. It's someone the officers recognize as a person they see and have friendly interactions with while patrolling.
General Stark was named by students in Manchester in a school competition. "General Stark" and "Valor" are not only making people feel at ease, they are an important part of helping to catch criminals in their own, unique way.
"People who won't normally talk to police," said Officer Rondeau. "[They're] typically not fans of the police and will avoid them. [But] people will come up to us, and start a conversation with us."
"What's his name?," one woman asked when she spotted the horses and approached.
For the next several minutes she spoke with Officers Rondeau and Gillis about how she wants to start a program to help people she knows with addiction.
"Maybe she wouldn't want to talk to a police officer in a cruiser, but she walks up to us and starts a conversation with us," Officer Rondeau said.
The two horses and the two human officers have dozens of stories of catching criminals all thanks to the welcoming nature of the four-legged police.
"I thought that was kind of interesting that he actually came up to us when he was wanted by the police," Officer Rondeau recalled about a man that walked up to the horses, but was arrested after he was recognized as a wanted person. "That happens to us a lot."
General Stark and Valor can be seen patrolling downtown Manchester and they even have their own badges. The group might just be the most popular on the force.
"They're like 'oh my god' and they're so excited," Officer Gillis explained of the reactions when people spot the horses.
NH1 News witnessed a memorable moment of a woman petting a horse for the very first time, after some convincing from her friends.
"This is what I mean," said Officer Rondeau. "You see that? She's overcoming a fear as we speak," he said.
Thanks solely to donations and volunteers, the horses are paid and cared for. Caring for General Stark and Valor is a non-stop job — and not always pretty.
"They make a big difference and without them, we wouldn't be able to maintain this," Officer Gillis said.
Hampton and Dover are the only other cities with mounted police in the state. If you'd like to volunteer or donate, check out the links below.