Friends of the Mounted Patrol make last-ditch effort to save horse unit in Portland

Mounted Patrol Unit. (KATU File Photo)

Supporters of Portland’s Mounted Patrol Unit testified in front of the mayor and City Council at a budget hearing Thursday night.

The Mounted Patrol Unit -- officers on horses -- is currently on the chopping block. Mayor Ted Wheeler’s budget proposal, which was released on May 1, includes eliminating Mounted Patrol.

“I'd rather reallocate those sworn officers to regular patrol and eliminate the rest of the program and take that funding and put it back into core community policing,” said Wheeler when his proposed budget was released.

Much of the money from the Mounted Patrol Unit appears to be earmarked for a community policing pilot program.

Robert Ball, president of Friends of the Mounted Patrol, testified Thursday at the hearing. A group of seven other supporters holding signs and photos of the horses stood behind Ball as he addressed the Council. He says the horses are the best community policing tool the city has and effective at controlling crime.

“If we're going to patrol the Springwater Corridor, there is no better way to do that than on a horse," said Ball. “They have such a visible presence. When you're in Old Town and you're on a horse or any other area where there is a drug problem, the bad guys see you right away, they scram.”

One woman told the mayor and Council her young son had a negative view of police until he met an officer on Mounted Patrol.

“When you're up on them, there are groups of kids, parents, teenagers, and elderly. They all come up, they want to see the horses, they want to pet them. They end up talking to the police officers, and that is what community policing is all about. That's how police officers can figure out what's happening in the neighborhood, who are the bad guys, what are the problems, then we can go address those problems,” said Ball.

Ball asked mayor and Council to give them more time to figure out a way to keep the horses. He says he suggested an alternative program to the mayor that would provide 100 Community Service Officers (CSOs) and keep the Mounted Patrol for the same price.

Friends of the Mounted Patrol feel like the rug was just pulled out from under them. Ball says they were told their funding was probably going to be safe. That’s why the organization began work on finding a new home for the horses in North Portland and dedicated nearly $500,000 to the cause. Currently, the horses are kept in Lake Oswego and brought into the city.

The mayor and Council heard testimony Thursday, they will vote to approve the budget on May 17.

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