STAR-BULLETIN / FEBRUARY 2001
The Honolulu Police Department is considering phasing out its Mounted Unit, shown here handling traffic and fielding complaints from the public in the Aloha Stadium parking lot during the Pro Bowl in 2001.
HPD patrol could be headed to pasture
The police consider phasing out its Mounted Unit due to poor cost effectiveness
The Honolulu Police Department may say neigh to its horse patrol unit. In a letter to the City Council dated July 22, Police Chief Boisse Correa said the department is contemplating phasing out its Mounted Unit, started in 2000 with patrol officers on horses for crowd control, park patrol and surveillance at Aloha Stadium games.
"Given the nationwide recruitment and retention crisis facing law enforcement agencies, Mounted Unit officers would be reassigned to meet the police department's more critical personnel needs," Correa wrote.
It costs an excess of $65,000 a year for the feed, stabling, general maintenance and veterinary care for the horses, with anticipated increases expected in the future, Correa said. There are four active horses in the unit.
Two vehicles transport the horses via trailer, and the trailers are 20 and 14 years old and in constant need of repairs, Correa said. New vehicles would cost more than $40,000 and would be used only by the Mounted Unit.
"Logically, because the horses need to be prepared, loaded, transported to and from their patrol venues, and cleaned and groomed after patrolling, they are limited to an average of four hours of actual patrol time," Correa said.
Correa suggested that parks be patrolled by a soon-to-be-implemented Parks Unit within the Police Department, and that the horses would be replaced by all-terrain vehicles.
"In actuality, we will be providing more services for considerably less money utilizing the ATVs," Correa said.
The Mounted Unit began to help give the department a more friendly and visible presence than bicycles and cars, police said years ago.
"We realize that the Mounted Unit was a great public relations tool and may be missed by the public," Correa said. "However, the unit is not cost effective and is, in essence, a 'nice-to-have' rather than a 'need-to-have' program."
Correa is out of state this week and was not available for comment yesterday.
The Mounted Unit had its beginnings in 1895, when it was organized as a branch of the police force. The unit remained in service until 1930.
A pilot program was started in 2000 to see how it would benefit the community. In 2002, then-Chief Lee Donohue approved the implementation of a full-time rider unit to be assigned to the Specialized Services Division. The unit is currently assigned under the Community Affairs Division.