The recent economy is proving to be a severe threat to police mounted units. As a result of budget cuts due to the global recession, numerous mounted units in cities around the United States were disbanded or downsized in the 2010s. In just under a decade, the number of mounted units went from over 300 full-time mounted units, to fewer than 100. New York City’s mounted unit has been severely reduced—to 79 police officers and 60 horses in 2011—down from the 130 officers and 125 horses it had before the downsizing.
The downturn has also completely claimed the mounted units in San Diego; Portland, Oregon; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Clarksville, Tennessee; and Camden, N.J.
In January 2009, San Diego auctioned off all eight of its horses and most of the equipment. In November 2012, the clip-clop of police hooves was silenced both on the cobblestones of Charleston, S.C., and on the streets of Newark, N.J., a much harder-hit city whose department recently laid off 163 officers.
Even Boston, whose police horses dated to the 19th century and were regulars at Fenway Park, were set to be disbanded back in 2009, but local supporters worked hard and have been able to keep some of the Boston Mounted Park Rangers going. The city pays the officers’ wages, but the six remaining horses and their supplies are strictly supported through donations from the public.
But all that goes doesn’t necessarily stay gone—Philadelphia closed its unit in 2004 to save money, but police commissioner Charles Ramsey—who came to value horses for both crowd control and community relations in his previous job as the police chief in Washington, D.C.—worked hard with the city and the Philadelphia Police Foundation and was able to reinstate a mounted unit in the fall of 2011.
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