Today, we can point you to a Facebook group that really likes Mayor Charlie Hales' proposal to get rid of the popular (and occasionally unnerving) horses and save the city $1.1 million. This one's called the Coalition for Alternatives to Mounted Police. Some of its supporters include people who supported a never-considered charter amendment that would have banned the use of police horses during protests.
And how's it doing? It's only got 50 likes. For now! But more interestingly, it also has seven reasons why mounted patrols aren't a good idea. One of those reasons mentions the several decades between the Depression and 1979 in which the police bureau went without a horse unit. Hit the jump and take a look at the rest.
1) Cost: The cost of horses, compensation for specially trained officers, veterinary bills, food, maintenance, facility usage, and other fees make the mounted police more cost-intensive than the average officer.
2) Equity: The Mounted Police Unit is only deployed in the downtown core, not available to deal with complaints or crime issues in the other regions of Portland.
3) Antiquated Program: In 2011, the cities of Philadelphia, Boston, and San Diego eliminated their Mounted Police Units, and New York City, (population 8 million) reduced their Mounted Police Unit from 125 to 60. The City of Portland must justify a long term goal with the operational benefits of having a Mounted Police Unit if they are to continue funding.
4) Clean Streets: Mounted Officers currently do not clean up after hose defecation. There must be a proposed, and pragmatic strategy to deal with this public inconvenience.
5) Budget Cuts to other Police Services: Continuing to fund the Mounted Police Unit could jeopardize funding to more prioritized police services, including school officers and property crimes detectives.
6) Ethics: Exploitation of animals is a major concern of animal rights groups. The over militarization and physical stress on horses in custody of the police can lead to controversy and protests.
During the Great Depression, Portland disbanded the Mounted Police Unit. It was reinstated in 1979. We have opportunities to reduce the cost of Mounted Police. Put the horses on furlough, reassign mounted officers to regular duty, and if economic conditions improve, then we have the opportunity to resume the program. But now, Portland faces a big budget constraint.