Take Five: Sgt. Shawn Dugan of the NBPD Mounted Enforcement Unit

By DIANNE RUSSELL

If anyone knows what’s up with the Newport Beach Police Department’s Mounted Enforcement Unit (MEU), it’s Sergeant Shawn Dugan. He was an original member of the MEU when it began on June 1, 2013, and was promoted to the rank of sergeant in March 2020. In 2005, he joined the Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD) as a police recruit and graduated from the Police Academy later the same year.

MEU is part of the Orange County Regional Mounted Enforcement Unit (OCRMEU). The OCRMEU also includes several other local police agencies and has a combined roster of approximately 40 horses. The Mounted Unit is an ancillary duty. Between deployments, the mounted officers work in regular assignments in the Patrol, Traffic, or Detective Divisions.

Stu News caught up with Sgt. Dugan to find out how the MEU began and to gain a better understanding of its functions.

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Photos courtesy of NBPD

(L-R) Officer Nate Farris, Officer Isaac Furnari and Sargeant Shawn Dugan

Q: As an original member of the NBPD Mounted Enforcement Unit, what was your motivation for joining? What was involved in getting the MEU up and running in 2013 and were you instrumental in its creation? How has the MEU evolved in the 11 years you’ve been with it?

A: My motivation for helping create the Mounted Enforcement Unit (MEU) was how much I enjoyed riding horses. In 2012, NBPD used horses from other Orange County police agencies to assist with crowd control on the 4th of July. I saw the potential that a Mounted Enforcement Unit could bring to not only the police department, but the city as a whole. The Mounted Enforcement Unit has evolved since our inception in 2013 from two officers and two police volunteers. We now have one sergeant (myself), two officers (Officer Nate Farris and Officer Isaac Furnari) and one police volunteer (Lori Hayden). I also transitioned from a police officer to sergeant within the unit in 2020.

Q: How does your team work together to facilitate the program?

A: Our team works very well together to accomplish our mission. We collaborate among our team for training topics for ourselves and our horses on a monthly basis. We also train on a monthly basis as a large group with numerous other Orange County police agencies with Mounted Units. I am very proud of all of our unit members and their dedication to our unit.

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(L-R) Police Volunteer Lori Hayden, Officer Isaac Furnari and Officer Nate Farris

Q: Since the horses in the MEU are personally owned and maintained by each individual unit member at their own expense, how do you recruit volunteers? How long have some of the volunteers been with you?

A: Since the horses in our program are all personally owned, it can be a financial burden, yes. This is a program that is a labor of love so to speak and it takes a lot of dedication from our members to keep things running. One of our current volunteers, Lori Hayden, has been with us since the beginning of our unit in 2013. Another volunteer, Bonnie Davis, had also been with us since 2013, but recently left the program since she moved out of the state.

Both of them have been tremendous help to our unit. We are not recruiting volunteers for our program, but look to grow our program with additional officers in the future.

Q: What kind of training do the horses (and volunteers) go through?

A: As far as training goes, each rider is responsible for continuous training with their horse. The horses need to be continually exposed to new types of sensory items that allow them to work in an urban environment. They also continuously work on their equitation (horse riding) skills with their horses. MEU members (officers and volunteers) also attend a 40-hour basic mounted officer training course to become certified to deploy on their horses in the field.

Q: Can you describe a scenario in which the MEU has been a distinct advantage in handling the situation. What is the fondest memory of your time with MEU?

A: Some of the advantages of the MEU are our high visibility in crowded areas. We can see things that people on the ground cannot see from our vantage point, and we can also be a visible police presence in a given area. We are also very effective in helping manage large crowds of people and can navigate all different types of terrain (street, sand, sidewalks, parking lots, etc.). The MEU also attends numerous public relations events such as National Night Out, NBPD Citizens Academy, Public Safety Day and Mobile Café, to name a few. The horses are a great ice breaker and allow us to interact with the community on a different level than we could otherwise in a police car. We meet a lot of people not only at these events, but on our routine patrols throughout the city.

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(L-R) Officer Isaac Furnari, Police Volunteer Lori Hayden and Officer Nate Farris

Q: Tell readers a little about Police Mount Bullseye. Do you have other horses?

A: Bullseye is a 15-year-old quarter horse and has been with the unit since 2017. He is 15.2 hands tall and weighs approximately 1,000 pounds. During Bullseye’s tenure with the MEU, he has worked numerous events throughout the City of Newport Beach as well as events at Angel Stadium, Knotts Berry Farm, Swallow’s Day Parade and the Huntington Beach Airshow.

The current MEU horses are Bullseye, Clyde (half quarter horse/half draft horse) and Buckie (Buckskin quarter horse).

Another fun fact is that our MEU team participated in this year’s 2024 Rose Parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. Officers Farris, Furnari and volunteer Hayden joined other Orange County police agency Mounted Units in the parade.

It was a very long process to participate in the parade and included a lot of work to make it happen. For equestrian units participating in the parade, it even requires sleeping in your car the night before to get the horses prepped and ready for an early call time. I’ve very proud of each of them for the dedication they showed to make the parade happen and the opportunity to represent not only the Newport Beach Police Department, but the City of Newport Beach on a national stage.


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