HPD says ‘giddyap’The public will get to see police officers on horses again when the Honolulu Police Department's Mounted Unit returns to patrol duty in two months after a nearly two-year hiatus.
to mounted patrols
The benefits include more visibility,
mobility and a friendly image
By Nelson Daranciang
"They'll be seeing us earlier on training rides," said Sgt. Debbie Wilson, the unit's supervisor.
The mounted unit started in 1999 as a pilot program and ended two years later. It was re-established as a permanent unit last March. The unit will be used for crowd control and will patrol parks, the Aloha Stadium parking lot during games and high crime areas, Wilson said.
"What the horses give us is added mobility, high visibility and they're really approachable. They're a huge crime prevention tool."
The horses also give police a more friendly presence and are more visible than officers on bicycles or in cars, she said.
Wilson and officer Sharon Walden were assigned to the mounted unit last March. Three male officers transferred to the unit three months ago and are in the middle of a 16-week course on horse training. There is one more opening for a mounted officer. Applicants need to pass the department's fitness test. There is no requirement for previous riding experience.
The department purchased six horses for the unit for $3,000 to $5,000 each, Wilson said. It also took delivery of a donated Percheron from Kauai last week which will have to undergo 90 days of evaluation before it can be accepted into the unit. Wilson and Walden have also been using their own horses to help train the department's animals.
The two women used their horses during the pilot program and were the only officers left when the program ended. Their animals are being maintained with the department's horses at the New Town and Country Stables in Waimanalo. All of the animals are geldings or castrated males, the only kind of horse the unit will accept.
The pilot mounted unit was last called into duty during the Asian Development Bank conference at the Hawaii Convention Center in May 2001. Wilson said officers who volunteered for the pilot program left because they had to maintain their own horses on their own time and at their own expense. The department did not have its own horses or stables.
She said it costs about $500 per month to maintain each of the unit's horses. That includes stable rental and hiring a veterinarian and a farrier to maintain the horses' hooves and replace their shoes every six weeks. Members of the unit help keep costs down by cleaning the horses and doing other maintenance like de-worming.
The department will establish a nonprofit foundation to accept donations for the mounted unit.
"Our vision is to become self-sufficient, double in size in a couple of years and run and maintain our own stable," Wilson said.
Honolulu Police Department
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