Badge and bridle: Gilroy Police Mounted Enforcement Unit

The six members of the Gilroy Police Mounted Enforcement Unit

Catching the Gilroy Police Mounted Enforcement Unit in action is
more of a rare sighting, compared to police on motorcycles or
driving cars.
Nonetheless, this specialized group stays poised for duty,
engaging in exercises and regular practices every month. They’re
recognizable fixtures at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, and serve
during public events such as recent memorial services for former
Police Chief C.J. Laizure.
Catching the Gilroy Police Mounted Enforcement Unit in action is more of a rare sighting, compared to police on motorcycles or driving cars.

Nonetheless, this specialized group stays poised for duty, engaging in exercises and regular practices every month. They’re recognizable fixtures at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, and serve during public events such as recent memorial services for former Police Chief C.J. Laizure.

“I would absolutely like to ride downtown more often,” said GPD Officer Randy Bentson, who described the mounted unit as a “fantastic, proactive tool that isn’t used nearly enough.”

Bentson is a member of the six-man team, which has been around for about 13 years. The officers rendezvous once a month on the Ranch Side of Christmas Hill Park, running through drills and exposing their steeds to distractions – like those obnoxious inflatable tube men with flailing arms, normally seen outside of used car dealerships. Other days, they’ll visit different locations, which helps acclimate their horses to new environments.

In terms of upkeep, GPD Press Sgt. Chad Gallacinao said each officer receives a modest stipend equivalent to 8.67 hours of work, which helps pay for feed, boarding and transportation.

“But the stipend doesn’t even come close to offsetting the actual maintenance costs,” he pointed out.

Describing the unit as a living extension of Garlic Capital heritage – a history that is richly centered around cowboys, horses and rodeos – Bentson observed “it would be nice if we could bring some of that back.”

Denise Jungling, founder of Friends of the Gilroy Mounted Patrol, said Gilroy’s mounted unit is the “absolute best public relations tool” that helps bridge the gap between law enforcement and the public.

Most people don’t remember the names of the officers, she said, but little children always remember the names of the horses.

“All kinds of people who would never approach a police officer come up to Randy’s horse and start talking to him,” she said. “Everybody walks up to a cop on horse.”

She added, “they are just the nicest bunch of guys. Any time they can help someone, they all do.”

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