Delaware State Police Mounted Patrol Unit unveils new stables

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The recently opened Delaware State Police stables are located at 875 Smyrna Landing Road in Smyrna. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

SMYRNA — Nearing the end of his sentence, Calvin Allen expected to be leaving James T. Vaughn Correctional Center “at any moment.”

The inmate benefited from a partnership among governmental entities that helped build new stables for the Delaware State Police Mounted Patrol Unit.

Now, when the Milford-area man leaves the custody of the Department of Correction, he’ll depart with a work ethic and job skills that can increase his chances of never coming back.

At a ceremony to promote the new facility at 875 Smyrna Landing Road on Tuesday, Allen was cited as a working example of why the program has so much value.

Department of Correction Commissioner Robert Coupe said he would support the project if it had a “benefit for our offenders.”

Noting that the site was “just grass eight months ago” Department of Safety and Homeland Security Secretary James Mosley said, “It goes to show what can get done when the right people get involved.”

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Department of Correction inmates Daniel Wharton, left, and Calvin Allen work at the horse stables seven days a week.

Secretary Mosely said the labor for inmates goes right to the heart of recidivism and re-entry discussions seeking ways to prepare convicts to make their way in the world upon release with acquired job skills.

Created through a no-cost business model, Commissioner Coupe said the eight participants so far have been provided “the opportunity to gain a skill that could land them a job,” upon release.

Indeed, Allen said he works at the stables seven days a week, with a 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. regular shift. He mops stalls, grooms horses and gets them ready for display.

The work “is definitely different for me,” he said.

Fellow inmate Daniel Wharton, of Dover, wanted the opportunity to work.

“I wanted something to keep me busy,” he said. He also wanted it to require responsibility that can apply to future employment opportunities.

“I like the hard work,” he said.

An inspiration realized

Thanks to the inspirational vision of State Police Master Cpl. Alison Meadows, the mounted patrol unit’s new home has displayed what cooperation between separate agencies can produce for the greater good.

Cpl. Meadows, a Pennsylvania native and longtime horse enthusiast, began pushing the virtues of a mounted unit years ago. She also developed a plan that would not burden taxpayers in the process.

She initially discussed the idea to then-State Police Sgt. Coupe, who eventually ascended to lead the agency before retiring and being

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Delaware State Police Master Cpl. Alison Meadows was instrumental in pushing the plan for stables near James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna.

appointed to head the DOC.

Through a series of meetings and developing partnerships, the state police and department of correction eventually erected the stables next to Vaughn, with the General Assembly, Department of Agriculture, New Castle County Police Department, Kent County Levy Court and Pennsylvania State Police Mounted Tactical Unit assisting along the way, along with private donations that filled the stables with horses.

At this week’s ceremony, Gov. Jack Markell pointed to the cohesion among government offices as something he’s often hoped and prodded for in the “job to put citizens at the center of everything …

“It’s exactly the type of collaboration and cooperation that the taxpayers expect of us. At this day and age when (there’s so much focus) on the presidential campaign being so dysfunctional and depressing, people are so tired of talk; they just want to see things get done.”

Deflecting credit in a team-first response, Cpl. Meadows said, “I truly cannot stand here and thank you all enough for opening the door for me and allowing this the opportunity to be an asset to our community.”

Superintendent Coupe, however, was more direct on individual praise,.

“I opened the door for her and she ran though it.”

Kent County Levy Court donated $75,000 in leftover capital project reserves from last year’s budget to finance the horse truck and trailer.

“We do a lot of events in Kent County where there are large crowds gathered,” Commissioner Terry Pepper said. “State Police have been very supportive in attending them and as our main police force in the county, this is a thank you to them.”

The 11-member mounted unit maintains a high profile, personal contact with the public that’s becoming increasingly harder to create, Cpl. Meadows said.

“In this technological era that we’re in, bringing back face-to-face policing is really what we need to do,” she said. “(It’s about) communicating with people I know would never approach my police car.”

State Police Superintendent Col. Nathaniel McQueen spoke at the ceremony and was among the leaders who praised what teamwork did to bring the new stables about.

“A facility of this magnitude does not become a reality without the work of many, to include the governor, members of the General Assembly, all of our state and local partners, and many of our Department of Correction and state police personnel,” he said.

“In addition, many of our private sector partners contributed to the construction of the facility, including Diamond State Pole Buildings, Delaware Correctional Industries and many other men and women who have spent countless hours making this day a reality.

“You have done an outstanding job.”

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