Skipper

(1979 – 1987)
Owned by Philadelphia Police Department
Inducted: 2014
Skipper was the perfect police horse and served the Philadephia community as a member of its Mounted Police Unit, with his partner, Officer William D. McCarthy. Skipper was brave and steady on patrol and unflappable even in the most stressful situations.

Police Officer William D. McCarthy joined the Philadelphia Police Department in 1977. From the beginning, McCarthy caught the attention of his commanders and fellow police officers with his dependability, eagerness to help others, and the willingness to do whatever was asked of him, no matter how difficult or trivial.

McCarthy was assigned to the mounted patrol in 1985. McCarthy's attitude and good nature were the perfect complement to Skipper and kept the morale of the unit at a high level, especially during the hardest times.

The beginnings of the Philadelphia Mounted Police Unit can be traced back to 1867 when the Fairmount Park Mounted Guard was created. In 1889 the Philadelphia Police Mounted Patrol Unit was established to patrol the streets of Philadelphia and has functioned continuously since then except for a brief four-year period from 2004 to 2008 when it was disbanded temporarily due to budgetary cuts.

There are hundreds of mounted police units serving in remote areas and in metropolitan areas across the United States. The exact count is not known. While their function at times may be may be picturesque or ceremonial, mounted police units are increasingly performing vital specialized duties involved with crowd control, riot duty, crime prevention, search and rescue, and other high visibility policing roles.

The added height and visibility that the horses give their riders allow officers to observe a wider area. It also allows people in the wider area to see and find the officers when they need them, which, in turn, helps deter crime. Mounted police are also used in situations where the horse is able to travel and police vehicles cannot and in situations when the horse can be more effective in intimidating those whom it is desired to disperse, or separate trouble makers or offenders from a crowd.

Skipper enjoyed patrolling city streets and the hustle and bustle of city life. Noises and distractions that would send most horses over the edge were just the norm for Skipper. But mostly Skipper loved people. He and his partner often visited schools for public relations and education. He loved to put his head down and let the kids pet him and enjoyed all the attention.

In 1987, the mounted police family suffered a tragic loss. On September 22, 1987, Skipper and the energetic 31-year-old officer, husband and father of four very young children, were tragically killed while on patrol. They had just finished working a long 10 hour shift at a Grateful Dead concert when they were killed attempting to apprehend a drunk driver.

Skipper and his partner Officer William McCarthy left a lasting impression on mounted police. In McCarthy's honor, a perpetual memorial trophy is presented every year at the North American Police Equestrian Championships. McCarthy's wife Elizabeth and his children Jennifer, Nicole, Lauren and William Jr., made that first presentation and continue to make the presentation to the officer and horse who received the highest score in the obstacle course every year since.

The William D. McCarthy Memorial Trophy and now the induction of Skipper into the Horse Stars Hall of Fame will forever remind us of the service of the mounted police and the inherent danger present in police work.