Officer Smokey doesn't horse around. OK, actually, he does but only because he must.

Officer Smokey doesn't horse around. OK, actually, he does but only because he must.

Smokey, a 13-year-old Ha-noverian horse, is the newest member of the New Albany Police Department.

Officer Joe Duff, who has been with the department for 17 years, approached police Chief Mark Chaney after Duff's daughter decided to stop riding Smokey in 4-H competitions.

Duff said he wanted to put his horse to work.

"We decided it would be a good opportunity," he said. "Instead of him hanging out in the barn, let's give him a job."

Through Duff's partnership with Chaney and the village, Smokey's new appointment isn't costing the village much.

Individual residents and corporate sponsors have underwritten the costs of having Smokey on staff, including feed and training.

Chaney said the only thing the village has had to fund is a new uniform for the mounted unit, which also will be part of the honor guard.

"We have picked up the cost of the uniform, but everything else has been covered," he said.

Duff said he anticipates that bringing Smokey on board would be a fun and cost-effective way to reach the community.

"I had the horse, and the cost is minimal to the village," Duff said. "I had this idea, and I went to the chief. When we spoke, I explained to him what I wanted to do and why I thought it was a good idea. The cost burden is not going to be on (the residents of New Albany)."

Duff said he would take care of Smokey, just as with his other horse that his daughter plans to ride in quarter-horse competitions.

He said he provides his own trailer and would provide veterinary care as needed.

Duff plans to ride Smokey at community events, such as the Founders Day parade, the Fourth of July and the New Albany Walking Classic in September. He also plans to be at opening day Saturday at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts.

"It's a good way for people to feel they can approach an officer," Duff said. "It is one of those things that I can give back to the community that treated me so good over the last 17 years."

Chaney said having a mounted officer brings many benefits.

"Horses are just great in crowd situations," he said. "People tend to respect horses."

He said a mounted unit provides the officer with additional height to see into a crowd. Horses also are immune to tear gas, he said.

"Because of all the special events, it seemed like a natural fit," Chaney said.

Duff, who spent much of April in training with Smokey at Terry Myer's Training Center in Ostrander, said he and his new partner are able to communicate well.

"Training has entailed the horse and I being able to communicate together," he said. "It means desensitizing the horse to loud noises and crowds. The biggest part is gathering the trust between the horse and myself."

Duff said he looks to get Smokey out into he community a few times a week in the summer, depending on officers' schedules.

"If people in the community are going to have parties during the day, if they notify us, we will make every possible attempt to be there," Duff said about Smokey's new role. "I'll bring him in on an as-needed basis."

Chaney said he thinks that as residents and organizations become more familiar with Smokey, they will seek his services.

"It's really unique to this community," he said. "I think people will see it's not just a public-relations tool."

gmartineau@thisweeknews.com