Sadly, the City of St. Paul is disbursing its mounted patrol unit. This unit consisted of officers riding specially trained horses who assisted in community outreach as well as crowd and riot control. The City of St. Paul cited lack of funding for its decision to end the unit. The City of St. Paul will reassign the officers to other units. Three of the horses will be returned to the people who donated them to the Police Department for this service and the other three horses are looking for new homes. These exceptional horses were in constant training to keep the officers and the public safe. Copper, Guinness, Cowboy, Javi, Moose, and Charlie served the City of St. Paul well and deserve to enjoy a peaceful retirement. These horses were selected specifically for their temperament and ability to perform their duties. They also had to pass strict fitness tests and temperament tests. These horses and officers are in constant training. The horses have to be prepared to not get scared and run at loud noises, unusual smells, or flashes of light. The City of Minneapolis maintains a mounted patrol unit and the Minnesota Mounted Posse Association is a group of deputy sheriffs who also maintain a mounted patrol unit.
The horses provided a special connection to the community. The unit was a way for officers to foster positive interactions with the pubic, a vital necessity in this day and age, which is often unfortunately fraught with conflict and misunderstanding. Officers frequently encountered members of the public who had never seen or even touched a horse before. The horses created a way for children and adults to see police officers as friendly helpful faces. Copper, Guinness, Cowboy, Javi, Moose, and Charlie were goodwill ambassadors and were happy to oblige the public who wanted to give them a scratch or a pet.
The horses also were a strong crime deterrent. One officer on a horse can see much farther than an officer on the ground. This increased visibility is paramount to effective policing in large crowds. The officers are also able to maneuver in tighter spaces much quicker than if they were in a patrol squad car. These 1,500 – 2,000-pound animals help officers move large groups of people quickly, effectively, and safely. Their size cannot be understated. It is much more difficult for a crowd to push back on a line of mounted patrol officers on massive horses than it is to push back on a line of officers on foot. This type of policing also helps to avoid conflict that may arise when confrontations happen between officers and individuals face to face. One mounted patrol officer is the equivalent of 10 police officers on foot.
The community will be sad to see them go.