Tightening budgets are forcing many cities to curb spending on mounted police units, threatening to send a centuries-old law-enforcement tradition the way of the horse and buggy, reports the Wall Street Journal. Police departments in Boston, Toledo, ,Roanoke, Va., and elsewhere are taking their horses out of service or giving them away. In many cases, residents are raising funds to preserve the cavalry. “I’m distraught,” says Nady Peters, a Boston-area horse lover who is leading efforts to bring back the city’s mounted police. The unit, which dates to 1873, has a Facebook page with 3,000 fans. A nonprofit is raising aid to reinstate it.
The best argument for mounted police is crowd control. Many officers say that with unruly mobs, an officer on horseback is worth 15 on foot. The horses, 1,200 to 1,500 pounds apiece, are usually trained to work in a group, marching shoulder to shoulder into a crowd. The New York Police Department, which has a large mounted-police unit, says its 64 horses allow police to have a crucial vantage point above crowds in dense areas such as Times Square. They create positive public relations.