OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Omaha Police Department welcomed a new horse to its Mounted Patrol Unit this week.
Thirteen-year-old Bullet, an Appaloosa horse was added to the unit on Tuesday, following a ceremony in front of other officers and his former owners.
Bullet was given a badge he will wear every day as he partners with an officer in patrolling the downtown and riverfront area.
“Anything you can do as a regular police officer, we can do on a horse,” said Sgt. Kevin Vodicka, in charge of the Mounted Patrol Unit. “So, we could arrest somebody, we could search somebody. We do traffic stops in the Old Market, but you just have to yell since we don't get a siren.”
Bullet completed his 30-day trial period, but Sgt. Vodicka said Bullet was ready for the job from day one.
“He was one of the quickest horses that we've had to take to the streets, and we didn't have to do much training. He's going to be a very big asset to this department,” he said.
His preparation for the department was in part due to his previous owner, who sold him to OPD. The First Responders Foundation helped cover the costs.
“He’s very social,” says Robert Wilcox, Bullet’s original owner. “We live near 97th and Military. I would ride him over the Military Street Bridge that goes over I-680 I could ride him over the pedestrian sidewalk and the cars would be going back and forth and he'd look a little bit, but I used to ride him through traffic, and he was used to firetruck cars, cop cars, everything.”
Wilcox added, “It makes me very proud to see him now with OPD. And that’s the good part, that I know where’s at and this is honestly the best thing that could’ve happened to him.”
Sgt. Vodicka says Bullet will be out in service effective immediately. He’ll be out at big events like the College World Series in June and this weekend’s NCAA Women’s Volleyball tournament.
“We'll be out there every day of the tournament, so we'll be walking around checking parking lots and making sure that everything's going okay, and we'll be in the front greeting people and talking to people. And that's another good thing about this unit, we talk to people from out of town and it really gives Omaha a positive look because a lot of cities don't have mounted patrols,” said Vodicka.
Having mounted patrols also helps with community policing, says Sgt. Vodicka.
“We'll be out around the Old Market, or we'll go to kids' schools. And a lot of kids that may be scared of police officers, they're more apt to come to us and pet our horses and it leaves a positive impression on them with police officers,” said Vodicka.
Pre-COVID, the Mounted Patrol Unit would give tours of the barn and horses to students, schools, and residents of retirement homes.
“They absolutely love it,” added Sgt. Vodicka. “And I think it’s good therapy for them to see the horses and pet them. It also allows us to be a positive reflection of the department and build relationships with people in the community.
OPD’s Mounted Patrol Unit was created in 1989. It currently consists of six officers, a barn manager and 12 horses.