Councilor Wants to Discuss Bringing Back Boston’s Mounted Police Unit
City Councilor Stephen Murphy isn’t horsing around: he wants Boston to bring back the police department’s Mounted Police Unit.
In an order filed on May 7, Murphy requested that the City Council hold a hearing to discuss the possibility of reinstating a force of officers that used to ride horses around in the parks while on patrol protecting the public.
The Mounted Police Unit, which was disbanded in 2009, used to bring a “sense of security and comfort to residents and visitors,” Murphy claims, and was one of the oldest units of its kind in the country, making it an “historical and cultural identifier” unique to the city.
Murphy’s request will go before the full council on Wednesday, at which point they will vote on whether or not to move the proposal forward for further discussion.
The unit, which roamed the city for more than 135 years, stalled as a result of the recession, and, as former City Councilor Mike Ross put it, a “bleak fiscal situation.”
According to a WBUR report from 2009, members of the City Council didn’t want the equestrian troops to no longer patrol Boston’s streets, and more then 2,000 people signed an online petition to back them up, asking officials to do “everything in their power” to save the unit. “This unit is the oldest in the country and provides daily community policing, crowd control, and other services to the citizens of Boston,” the petition said.
But police said at the time there was no other option, and the horses had to go. The 10 mounted officers that worked with the animals were reassigned to various duties within the department, and the “hostlers” that cared for the horses at the stable in Jamaica Plain were let go. “Just like an umpire in baseball, you might not like every call,’’ then-Police Commissioner Edward Davis said, when he proposed cutting the unit in 2009. “But that’s the decision we made. I had to choose between animals and people, and I chose people.’’
When the decision was made to do away with the unit due to financial restraints, despite the City Council wanting to keep the equestrian police squad clomping around Boston’s streets, contractual language stated that if the service returned then the same horses could come back. Whether that part of the deal is still applicable is not clear at this time. Murphy did not immediately return phone calls placed by Boston to find out why he suddenly felt the city needed to bring back the mounted police unit five years after it was disbanded.
In 2010, some of the horses used by police officers were transported to Plymouth, where police were trained in how to handle the animals during events like the annual bonfire on White Horse Beach. A few of the horses were sent to New York City to continue working as patrol animals, while others, who were loaned to the city of Boston when the unit existed, were returned to their original owners.