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Police chiefs are always talking about the importance
of their police departments' image, and the
omnipresence of police officers.  Personally...I've
never seen a police mounted unit that did not
present an incredibly positive image, and, as far as
omnipresence goes, a cop on top of a horse is
literally ten feet tall.

What I find unique to mounted police officers is
their ability to be intimidating without looking that
way.  I think the term passive intimidation would be
a good description.  Having had the experience of
commanding fifty police officers in a crowd control
situation where two opposing groups were trying to
get at each other, the entry of three mounted
officers into the zone between the police lines had a
most amazing effect.  All eyes were on the horses
as the protesters in both groups ceased their
foreword movement.  The shouting stopped, and
the crowd control officers easily straightened their
lines without having to resort to pepper spray,
batons, or any other use of physical force.  

While I never had the pleasure of commanding, or
serving in, a mounted unit, I did have the pleasure
of one very up close encounter with a police mount.
As we neared the intersection, and just as I'd
determined to risk passing the horse and race to
the intersection to stop all traffic, the horse
stopped galloping, and he turned toward the
sidewalk.  He walked slowly onto the sidewalk where
he stopped and pressed his nose against the wall of
a rowhouse.  Now came the hard part.  I got out of
my car and slowly walked toward the horse.  If
you've ever spent any time around horses, you
know the look they give you from the corner of the
eye.  It's a look that says you have no idea how
that horse is going to react to you.

I really had no choice but to grab onto his halter.  I
had a pretty big audience by that time, and it would
have been terribly embarrassing if the horse decided
to continue his odyssey.  I moved slowly as I
reached out and put my hand around that leather.  
Seconds later I was petting his head and talking
dumb stuff to him just like I do with my dogs.  The
best part came when the mounted officer arrived to
retrieve his horse.  His gratitude was dwarfed only
by his obvious affection for his horse, and his relief
that no harm had come to his mount.

I just hope that mounted police units never become
extinct.  In a time when traditions are constantly
under attack, it would be a shame for police
departments to lose such a class act.
Links to a few Mounted Police Units
in the United States
The Oldest Mounted Police Unit
in the World
The New South Wales Mounted Police Unit
is the oldest continuous operational Mounted unit in
the world. It was formed by Governor Brisbane on
the 7th September, 1825. In comparison the
London Metropolitan Mounted Police were formed in
1828 and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in
1863.
Mounted
Police
"What I find unique to mounted police officers
is their ability to be intimidating without
looking that way." ~ Barry M. Baker
Politicians are always talking about saving money.  I
know...you can go ahead and laugh at that one.  
When it comes to cutting costs within a police
department that maintains a mounted unit, those
handsome animals are always in danger of suffering
cutbacks or being eliminated all together.

When you begin your police career, you're going to
see a lot of wasteful spending in the name of better
law enforcement.  The reason a mounted unit is
always on the block is because it is expensive to
maintain a stable of mounts with all the attendant
costs of training and care for the horses.
It was on my last shift as a patrol officer the night
before I was promoted to sergeant.  Two mounted
units were in the district patrolling a high crime
area.  The mounted officers got into a fight with a
group of bad guys, and the assist call came over
the radio.  I never made it to the scene since other
officers got there ahead of me, and the assist call
was called off.

I was still three blocks away as I stopped at a stop
sign and turned off my siren and roof lights.  I was
just about to cross over a wide north/south
thoroughfare and continue to the scene just to see
what was happening.  Just as I began to move
forward, I saw something moving toward me from
the darkened street I was about to enter.  
Yea...you guessed it.  It was a horse...but, just the
horse.

The riderless mount came out of the street, and he
made a left turn as he continued to gallop
northbound on the one-way southbound
thoroughfare.  Needless to say, a horse running
against traffic, even on a fairly well lit thoroughfare,
was not a good situation.  The situation was made
worse since he'd entered a long stretch without any
red lights where drivers would often reach speeds
of 50 mph or better.

I swung in behind him, and I turned on every light I
had...high beam headlights, red and blue roof
lights, my door spotlight, and two spot lights
contained in the roof bar lights.  I reasoned the
lights would sufficiently silhouette the horse so that
southbound drivers couldn't possibly miss what
must have been an unusual sight.  It worked better
than I'd hoped as southbound traffic continually
moved to both curbs and stopped.  We were far
from out of the woods, because just a few blocks
ahead was a major intersection, and I was hesitant
to use my siren for obvious reasons.

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