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Mounted Police Units Prove to be a Valuable Division of Law Enforcement
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Mounted Police Units Prove to be a Valuable Division of Law Enforcement

Budget cuts across the nation, due to a lagging economy, is evoking many U.S. cities to rethink the mounted police force. Boston, Camden, Charleston, Tulsa and other cities have disbanded mounted units. However, Houston, Texas and Portland, Oregon continue to maintain a mounted police force along with a few other cities.

Federal Parks in New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. persevere to sustain a mounted police force. Established in 1934, the United States Park Police Horse Mounted Unit has proven to be an invaluable division of law enforcement in the parks. The unit has expanded and provides mounted patrols in the metropolitan areas of these cities. During demonstrations and special events the equestrian unit may be transported to other locations within the National Park system.

Equestrian units are well suited for trails that require unique policing modus operandi. Large open spaces such as ball fields and picnic areas are more efficiently patrolled by equestrian units compared to officers on foot or motorized vehicles. The horses often participate in parades or by patrolling parade routes. Horses are able to safely maneuver crowds of people and heavily traveled roadways. Horses may be donated to the United States Park Police Horse Mounted Unit by calling Officer Mariea Sabate at (202) 426-6853 or by e-mail to mariea_sabate@nps.gov to voice an interest.

There are a total of 38 horses in the Houston Police Department Mounted Patrol. The equestrian unit consist of Tennessee Walkers, Quarter Horses, Percherons, Hanoverians, Belgiums and other breeds. Only 32 are assigned to patrol duty. Most of the other horses are in training or serve as back-ups. Attributes required of each horse is a gentle temperament, between the age of 2 to 15-years old, healthy, and a minimum height of 15.2 hands. Only geldings or mares are accepted into the division.

The horses must complete vigorous training procedures before being assigned to an officer. Each officer is assigned a mount and has the responsibility for the well-being and care of the assigned horse. Once a month, the whole unit completes training exercises. In 2003, the patrol initiated a barefoot program for the horses, which has proven successful with very little hoof problems. Hoof boots are utilized in the beginning to combat sensitivity. To donate a horse to the program contact Sergeant Leslie Wills or Senior Police Officer Greg Sokoloski at 832-394-0399. Monetary donations are also accepted.

In Portland, Oregon, the Police Beureau's Mounted Patrol Unit primarily combats street crime in the downtown region. The mounted officers are able to quickly respond in congested areas. The unit is also utilized for crowd control and parking problems at special events throughout Portland. Officers in the unit issue citations, make arrests, conduct investigations and handle routine calls.

Stable attendants are employed to feed and care for the horses. Attendants clean the barn, attend minor injuries and bathe and clip each horse. Stable attendants train the officers and the horses. Each officer prepare his or her own mount at the beginning of a patrol and takes care of tack for the assigned horse. A renovated flour mill just outside of the downtown area has been converted into a nice equestrian facility with a riding arena and stalls. There is a horse barn located downtown for boarding the assigned mounts.

Summary: Although many mounted patrol units have disbanded due to funding, the units in existence prove to be a valuable division of law enforcement.

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