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Mounted Policing

Mounted Units are commonly utilized for their effectiveness and efficiency in crowd control. The efficacy of a mounted officer in a crowd control situation is staggering. Most estimates show that a horse and rider can do the job of 10-20 officers on foot, oftentimes with greater success and less injury to the officer or the perpetrator. A specific example in which all three Minnesota police mounted units participated was the 2008 Republican National Convention. The Saint Paul Police Department's Mounted Unit is deployed for such situations with great effect. Additionally, the unit also participates in speed and traffic enforcement, parking enforcement, search and rescue operations, block club get-togethers, parades, festivals, and other special events around the city.

While the above mentioned duties are essential, the primary function of the Saint Paul Police Mounted Unit is support of patrol operations. This is necessitated due to the make-up of our city. We do not regularly experience large riot situations or large crowds, with the exception of special events and festivals. Some mounted units, such as Minneapolis', also have a large bar scene to attend to. While areas of Saint Paul experience quality nightlife (such as Lowertown and Grand Avenue), the crowd is older, more mature, and less apt to causing large-scale disruptions of the peace.

The main focus of this support is neighborhood patrol. Saint Paul, like many communities across the nation, is a city made up of distinct neighborhoods with their own histories and their own cycles. All of these neighborhoods benefit from having mounted patrol, but in varying ways. From a criminal standpoint, the Mounted Unit responds to certain areas of the city through citizen or command staff request, and also through proactive placement.

Given the nature of patrol on horseback, it is advisable that mounted officers respond to street level criminal concerns. Many of these concerns can be characterized as "quality-of-life" crimes. These crimes and types of behavior reflect negatively on a neighborhood. They increase the perception that a neighborhood is unsafe. Criminals are emboldened and good citizens are discouraged. Some types of behavior that would be considered as quality-of-life concerns consist of urination in public, vagrancy, disorderly conduct, noise complaints, traffic offenses, littering, vandalism, drug dealing, prostitution, public intoxication, theft, loitering, and trespassing.

By utilizing state-of-the-art crime mapping software, we can pin-point grids (small geographical areas within the city) that are suffering from high rates of such activity. While officers on patrol in squad cars have a wide range of mobility and are expected to answer calls-for-service, mounted officers can stay in a small geographic area and are not usually subject to dispatched calls. This means that if a certain grid is identified as experiencing a high number of quality-of-life street level crimes, mounted officers can set up shop in the neighborhood for hours, days, or even longer. The effect can be dramatic. Contemplate the advantages to the senses of the mounted officer: He can hear more of the sounds in the neighborhood than an officer in a squad car with the window rolled up. He can see more from his vantage point on top of his mount. He can smell more effectively, whether it be the odor of burnt marijuana or the odor of a possible house fire. He can speak more with members of the community, as staying in the area and moving about on horseback gives a degree of accessibility to the citizen. He can also move with greater ease in and out of streets, alleys, parks, and yards.

Often times the mere presence of mounted officers in these types of neighborhoods has a deterrent effect on crime. Mounted officers project professionalism due to their uniform and mount, not to mention their skill on horseback. Being especially visible, it does not take long for word to get out to the criminals that they are not welcome. They are no longer free to act with impunity. Citizens can see that their police do care about their neighborhood, and are enheartened to see that their officers are on their side. Enforcement, whether in the mode of presence, advisement, citations, or arrests make the neighborhood a safer place to live. The goal is to not only give a small reprieve to a neighborhood, but also to assist in setting it on a path of greater security and providing a framework for its flourishing.

It goes without saying that interaction with children may be one of the most important things a mounted officer can engage in. Children and citizens who may not normally interact with police will do so with a police officer on a horse. We go to great lengths to establish positive community relations with our youngest of citizens, especially those who are disadvantaged or immigrants from areas of the world where police are viewed in a much different light. Answering questions, smiling, laughing, and making ourselves available for photos...these are all ways of creating a bond with the people we serve. While our uniforms and mode of transport may hearken back to bygone halcyon days of police history, it is evident that the existence of this unit in its current form leads to greater realization that, in the words of Sir Robert Peel, "...the police are the public and the public are the police."

Clean Up of Horse Droppings
During their patrols in the City, the horses will often deposit manure.  The officers seek to clean up after their horses, but if you are concerned that adequate clean-up has not occurred, please consider contacting Sergeant Valarie Namen (the officer who supervises the Mounted Unit) at (651) 266-5798 to let her know the location that needs attention.