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Posted: 8/27/2004 1:32:37 PM EDT
Pennsylvania Chief, Mayor Defend Horse in Incident

TimesLeader via the Associated Press

WILKES-BARRE -- Although a woman was injured Tuesday on Public Square, the police chief and mayor say horse patrols work well, but resisting arrest doesn't.

Mellissa Faux, 24, was cut after a horse's bridle struck her while she refused to leave the scene of a fight and resisted arrest, according to police reports and a reporter who witnessed the incident.

Police Chief Gerry Dessoye says it wasn't the horse's fault, or the officer's, that Faux was injured.

"I don't want to send out the message that I'm even the slightest bit upset by this," Dessoye said. "Thank God the horse wasn't hurt, or the officer, because that's my interest."

Dessoye said Faux's injury was no different than when someone is injured by another piece of police equipment while resisting arrest. "It's not as if the horse went after her. The officer was struggling with the subject and the horse just turned its head."

The horse, named Devon, is one of three used by the department. Dessoye characterized the horses as calm and well-trained and said they're mostly used for crime prevention but are ready when other needs arise.

Carbondale officials had six horses on their police force until recently, when they gave them up because of the cost.

"We never had any injuries associated with them, and we never had any complaints about them," said Mayor Justin Taylor, "except for the normal (complaints) about the deposits they leave."

Luzerne County Sheriff Barry Stankus uses up to six horses for parades or when his department is on search-and-rescue missions. "They're very good for us when we use them and are never any trouble."

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton said he supports his officers and their horses. "My commitment to the residents is that we are going to be very aggressive in policing. What's unfortunate is that people were fighting on Public Square, and that's why somebody got hurt."

Leighton said the horses are a tremendous asset, merchants like them and they are a big part of the success his administration has had with "getting a lot of the undesirables out of Public Square."

Local attorney Barry Dyller, who regularly represents people in cases against police officers, said: "I've not heard of much trouble with mounted police in my career, in terms of the horses. This looked like an accident, not a case of excessive force."

Dyller added that if there was any issue, it might be why police wanted to arrest someone who was speaking her mind.

Dessoye said Faux has not filed a complaint against the officer.

"And if there is, I won't give it a second thought. If you don't resist arrest, you won't get hurt."

Damn, there may be hope for Penn after all...

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