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…

And here…


And 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.

  • EEllis

    They are also absurdly expensive. They do look good and are great in touristy areas but let's acknowledge the negatives. During a 8 hour shift only half is spent working as the rest of the time is spent readying, transporting, and caring for the mounts. They can't be used in inclimate weather. There is also a huge liability involved when the public, almost none of which understands anything about horses, interacts with them. Then of course there is the money spent housing and training along with the time that takes the officers involved who could be working. Conservatively speaking I would think you could put 50 regular cops out for the cost of 12 mounted officers then it makes it easier to see why the decision could go against mounted cops. My city does have a mounted patrol (32 horses) but this is only possible through grants and donations. It is almost impossible for a modern US city to justify the expense otherwise.

  • swaraaj

    It is an old story — heritage preservation versus expenses.

    “Expensive” is a relative term. So let us work out the expenses in concrete terms.

    Please remember we are not talking of an individual keeping horses. It is the State machinery/the citizens who foot the bill.

    We all know how much money is squandered in the name of “public good” in numerous other activities. Why not curb expenses there.

    Also it is a question of priorities. The mounted police is NOT a mere decorative arm. It has proven beyond doubt its important role in maintaining law and order as well as its ceremonial role worldwide.

    The presence of horses with mounts is a refreshing sight anywhere, and a much humane/gentle way of portraying the image of police in public.

    With deteriorating crime situation in cities, the sight of mounted police is reassuring as compared with impersonal policing through cars or motorcycles alone.

    Anyway I would be happy to know how many millions would be saved by throwing away an American heritage …. that is 12 horses, and their mounts, from the Boston police force!!!

  • AustinRoth

    Another blow to the whip and saddle industry.

    This is why we need nationalization of ALL sectors of the business economy – to prevent such tragedies of cold, money-obsessed capitalism throwing productive workers into the streets.

  • EEllis

    “Anyway I would be happy to know how many millions would be saved by throwing away an American heritage …. that is 12 horses, and their mounts, from the Boston police force!!!”

    I don't know but since it's that cities money why not let them decide how to spend it? That's $600,000 and to keep those horses working they will have to layoff police. There will be less police, people losing their jobs, if they keep the horses. The city park rangers were also facing the loss of their 12 mounted patrol officers but $200,000 in private donations kept them alive.

  • http://themoderatevoice.com/about-tmv-authors/ swaraaj

    “I don't know but since it's that cities money why not let them decide how to spend it?”

    I know…I know…I also wrote in my post “Why am I talking about Boston mounted police while sitting in India?”

    Yes, indeed, why?

    Let me explain. The same question was thrown at me when I campaigned for retaining horses for police duties in New Delhi and Chandigarh.

    But I persevered and won, and my newspaper supported me. When I was cutting my teeth in journalism I was told by my seniors that NO ISSUE is beyond the purview/coverage area of a GOOD JOURNALIST.

    And now we live in a “Global Village.” Whatever happens in any part of the world should concern a good journalist.

    So if the capital of a “poor” country like India can retain horses in police force why not Boston?

    The myopia I see at present in media coverage makes me sad maybe because of my training as a cub/cadet news reporter that exhorted me to explore diverse issues.

    The purpose of writing a news report/post is to initiate a discussion…that's what democracy is all about. Discussion not on a limited number of issues…but all that concern people/society.

    Unfortunately, culture/heritage are a low priority area for the media. Many believe that without culture/heritage human beings tend to become more barbaric.

    We ARE living in different times where discussion is being seriously undermined. How? That's a subject for another debate.

    Now let's get back to the horses… I love horses. Once I rode bareback in the Himalayas when I was in my mid-twenties. Later, I encouraged my daughter to ride. Horse is a graceful animal and a great companion.

    For 600 years my family lived in a princely state in India, and horses and guns were part of our Rajput family treasure/heirloom.

    My grandmother was a good rider too, and handled the gun well while hunting deer, wild boar, partridges, pheasants, etc, along with my grandfather when game was abundant in our sprawling estate.

    I have inherited my family's love for horses. I still live in a 100-year-old family house, but I can't afford to keep a horse now.

    So whenever I hear the passing away of an era where horses had played a vital role and were part of a heritage …I mourn…

    But continue my solo CAMPAIGN for horses!!!

  • EEllis

    So you like horses therefore Boston should spend $600,000 a year? ………. I think that completes this discussion.

  • http://themoderatevoice.com/about-tmv-authors/ SWARAAJ CHAUHAN, International Columnist

    Yes, whatever amount needed…Boston police horses should be saved.

    If only the US federal government could spend a “peanut” amount, this US/World heritage could be saved. Later innovative methods/strategy could be used to raise funds for this mounted unit.

    As compared with the scandalous bailout amount being spent on the American banks, insurance companies, car makers (without any punitive steps for those responsible for the financial crisis), the bailout amount for Boston police horses is indeed peanuts.

    Please don’t forget that the US administration has spent trillions of dollars down the drain in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The same federal government can and should spend on heritage and culture.

    Boston, let us remind ourselves, is part of the USA, and the Boston mounted unit is the oldest, and the pride, of America.

    In the case of Boston mounted police, it is important to remember that the unit also performs useful law and order duties.

    The American citizens/media have been a mute witness to years of scandalous financial/political excesses and profligacy of their administration/government.

    To think that by doing away with 12 poor horses (who do not have a lobby or voice) the financial situation of Boston/USA would improve, I am afraid it is a sad commentary on a nation that once beckoned the most talented from different parts of the world.

  • SwaraajChauhan

    Yes, whatever amount needed…Boston police horses need to be saved.

    This US/World heritage could be saved, if only the US federal government could spend a “peanut” amount. Later, innovative methods/strategy could be used to raise funds for this mounted unit.

    As compared with the scandalous bailout amount being spent on the American banks, insurance companies, car makers,etc. (without any punitive steps for those responsible for the financial crisis), the bailout amount for Boston police horses is indeed peanuts.

    Unlike others, the horses (and their mounts and keepers) have not committed any crime but have been punished!!!

    Please don’t forget that the US administration has spent trillions of dollars down the drain in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The same federal government can and should spend on heritage and culture.

    Boston, let us remind ourselves, is part of the USA, and the Boston mounted unit is the oldest, and the pride, of America.

    In the case of Boston mounted police, it is important to remember that the unit also performs useful law and order duties.

    The American citizens/media have been a mute witness to years of scandalous financial/political excesses and profligacy of their administration/government.

    To think that by doing away with 12 poor horses (who do not have a lobby or voice) the financial situation of Boston/USA would improve, I am afraid it is a sad commentary on a nation that once beckoned the most talented from different parts of the world.

  • screamnpeopleunderstand

    This is a very informative and interactive news site which gives a clear idea of what is happening over the globe

  • EEllis

    “Unlike others, the horses (and their mounts and keepers) have not committed any crime but have been punished!!! “

    Well yes some keepers have lost their jobs but since you could care less about the cops that would lose theirs I hardly see your moral high ground here. As far as the horses none are being punished. Some will go to work in NY , some to the county farm, others return to their owners(they were temp donations). None of which qualifies as a punishment. And the horses have quite a lobby maybe they should of gotten off their asses and raised some money instead of complaining that someone else didn't come up with the money. I assume you will be sending a donation post haste?

    http://www.mintformounts.org/welcome.html

    And now the Feds should pay? You are a little horse crazy arn't you.