Napa County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse
By Kathleen Reynolds
Sheriff’s Sergeant Jon Thompson isn’t an equestrian, but he was happy when the Napa County Sheriff’s Department assigned him to be a liaison with the Napa Mounted Posse two years ago.
“It’s a great organization,” says Thompson. “They are regular citizens who step up and help in times of need.”
“The Posse are all volunteers,” he continues. “They love the community and want to give back. Our members come from different walks of life. We have a dispatcher, people in the wine industry, a paramedic, hospital workers and others.”
The oldest working posse in the State of California, the group was organized in 1949. For more than seven decades, they have served the community. While their primary function is search and rescue by transporting equipment and conducting evidence searches in areas unreachable by ATVs, they are also activated during local emergencies, such as floods, as part of the Public Service Team.
Madeleine Peterson is Captain of the Napa County Sheriff Mounted Posse. As Captain, she guides new members, helps in public service and creates exposure for the Posse. Born and raised in Napa County, has been riding since about the age of eight. During childhood, Peterson learned everything equine at a pony ranch.
“I watched the Mounted Posse in parades as a child,” says Peterson about her interest in the Posse. “A friend of mine from team roping was in the Posse. I thought it was cool and a fun way to interact with my horse.”
What does she like best about the Posse? “I love all of it,” says Peterson. “We get to have our horses exposed to different experiences such as being near helicopters. I enjoy it when children run up and want to know about the horses. I remember doing the same thing when I was little.”
Recently, the Posse rode through Skyline Park. “We visited transient camps to bring them resources, including suggesting safer places for them to live,” she says. “It allowed us to become more familiar with the people and the locations of the various camps so we can reach them in an emergency.”
Members live throughout the County, from Angwin to Calistoga, Pope Valley and Napa. The volunteers are active in donating medical equipment to those in need. The Posse takes pride in their support of the community and is very involved in charitable, civic events and lending a hand to deserving organizations.
The community, in turn, supports the Posse. Pre-COVID, their annual Crab Feed sold out in a few days and many businesses and organizations donated prizes for their raffle. Funds raised, and other generous donations, not only support the operations of the Posse, but are also passed on in order to sponsor youth athletics and agriculture.
“The Posse always participated in local events such as parades,” Sgt. Thompson says. “They also took part in long distance rides. COVID changed that but as we move forward and become a larger organization then we’ll resume those activities.”
The Posse, considered an Auxiliary Unit, currently numbers 11, along with two sworn deputies who act as liaisons with the Sheriff’s Department. The Unit is currently recruiting new members, although COVID has slowed some applicant processing efforts such as background checks.
“I’m proud to be part of the Posse and I take pride in our other members,” says Peterson. “We welcome all people and are honored to be about to help law enforcement and the community.”
Captain Peterson wants the public to know the Posse has kept up with modern times. “The Posse is progressive, not old school.”
Volunteers include men and women spanning different age ranges. “We welcome all types of horses, too. We have a good time and new members shouldn’t feel intimidated because we all learn together. We understand that most horses aren’t familiar with flares, being around emergency vehicles or aircraft. There’s lots of training and we’re looking forward to more education, especially in search and rescue.”
Do you or someone you know have an interest in volunteering with the Napa Mounted Posse? There are some conditions but, if you qualify, Sergeant Thompson and Posse Captain Peterson welcome your application. The group previously held monthly meetings, but until that resumes, please contact Sgt. Jon Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit napamountedposse.com for information.