As police departments across the country struggle to save money and cut budgets, they’re downsizing or disbanding their equestrian units. Departments in Charleston, South Carolina; Newark, New Jersey; San Diego, and Boston all lost their horse-mounted patrols.
For many departments, it’s just not economical. “It was a lot less expensive for us to operate bicycles and electric vehicles and other things than it was to maintain the housing and feed and care for the animals,” said Charleston, South Carolina, police chief Gregory Mullen.
Officers say that having one mounted officer in a crowd is as effective as seven to ten officers on foot. New York has one of the largest units in the country. There are currently 79 mounted officers and 60 horses in the city, but a decade ago the city’s police department had 130 mounted officers and 125 horses. Philadelphia had an equestrian unit but closed it in 2004. But Police Chief Charles Ramsey wants to revive it. “One of my officers once said, ‘Nobody ever tried to pet my police car, but they line up to pet my horse,’” he said. “And it’s true.”