Boston’s Shame: Disbanding Its Mounted Police

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Tomorrow (that is Tuesday, June 30) would be a shameful day for Boston…. It is disbanding United States of America’s first mounted police unit. The AP report states: “(The Boston Mounted Unit’s) 12 horses would be given new homes — at least until the city can come up with funds to restore the unit.”

What a shame that the budget cuts would hurt this 136-year-old historic police unit. The mounted police plays a significant role in crime prevention and does high visibility policing. The on-duty cops on horses can maneuver through city’s narrow lanes and parks.

Why am I talking about Boston mounted police while sitting in India? As a journalist I successfully campaigned to retain the mounted police in New Delhi, India’s capital, and also at Chandigarh, a city designed by famous architect Le Corbusier, when these police units came under attack for budgetary reasons.

AP reports: “Police Commissioner Ed Davis told the Boston City Council he had to choose between animals and people in the budget, and chose to keep people.”

Really!!! Strange and sad that such a historic, ceremonial and functional police unit comprising only 12 — repeat Twelve — horses and men could not be retained while large funds are diverted for other functions that can be easily curtailed.

It was the same situation nearly four decades ago when the Delhi police wanted to disband its mounted unit that had repeatedly distinguished itself by meeting challenging law and order situations.
I was then a young reporter with The Hindustan Times, India’s leading newspaper.

My editor supported me and, finally, the Delhi Police not only gave up its disbanding move but also increased the amount needed for buying horses for its mounted unit. The salaries of the mounted policemen also went up, as also funds for maintaining the stables and the feed.

Similarly, in the north Indian city of Chandigarh, where I was working as Assistant Editor with the century-old The Tribune,
I campaigned in my newspaper highlighting the plight of the police horses that were kept with impounded cattle, captured while roaming the city streets (a usual sight in Indian cities).

Once a police mare became pregnant in that scandalous yard. I approached the city police chief (a fine police officer who happened to be a friend) and told him that next day I would be running a story under the heading “Police Mare Raped By A Stray Horse”!!!

He panicked and said that he would do whatever needed to improve the situation, if only I did not write the story. I extracted a promise from him that within a fortnight good stables would be built for the horses, the feed allowance would go up, as also that of the mounted policeman.

The then Chandigarh police chief, Gautam Kaul, kept his word. Today, after nearly three decades, the mounted police is the pride of the city. The mounted police also runs a riding academy and gives horse riding training to school kids for a small fee.

This helps improve police image in the public and is a good public relations exercise.

So why the Boston police is not looking for options to raise funds for its mounted police? It can even increase the number of horses to 30 or even 50 and run a horse riding academy on the pattern of Chandigarh.

Don’t forget about the mounted police’s real role. A policeman on a horseback becomes a great deterrent during riots and helps in crowd control. And, yes, then there are ceremonial roles that help improve police image in the public. More here…

The AP report adds: “Five horses will be leased to the New York City Police Department, four are going to the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Office and three are being returned to their former owners.” More here…

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Author: SWARAAJ CHAUHAN, International Columnist

Swaraaj Chauhan describes his two-decade-long stint as a full-time journalist as eventful, purposeful, and full of joy and excitement. In 1993 he could foresee a different work culture appearing on the horizon, and decided to devote full time to teaching journalism (also, partly, with a desire to give back to the community from where he had enriched himself so much.) Alongside, he worked for about a year in 1993 for the US State Department's SPAN magazine, a nearly five-decade-old art and culture monthly magazine promoting US-India relations. It gave him an excellent opportunity to learn about things American, plus the pleasure of playing tennis in the lavish American embassy compound in the heart of New Delhi. In !995 he joined WWF-India as a full-time media and environment education consultant and worked there for five years travelling a great deal, including to Husum in Germany as a part of the international team to formulate WWF's Eco-tourism policy. He taught journalism to honors students in a college affiliated to the University of Delhi, as also at the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication where he lectured on "Development Journalism" to mid-career journalists/Information officers from the SAARC, African, East European and Latin American countries, for eight years. In 2004 the BBC World Service Trust (BBC WST) selected him as a Trainer/Mentor for India under a European Union project. In 2008/09 He completed another European Union-funded project for the BBC WST related to Disaster Management and media coverage in two eastern States in India --- West Bengal and Orissa. Last year, he spent a couple of months in Australia and enjoyed trekking, and also taught for a while at the University of South Australia. Recently, he was appointed as a Member of the Board of Studies at Chitkara University in Chandigarh, a beautiful city in North India designed by the famous Swiss/French architect Le Corbusier. He also teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students there. He loves trekking, especially in the hills, and never misses an opportunity to play a game of tennis. The Western and Indian classical music are always within his reach for instant relaxation. And last, but not least, is his firm belief in the power of the positive thought to heal oneself and others.