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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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