January 10, 2011; Source: Newsday | Saddled with rising expenses that are forcing it to reign in its budget, the Newark police department is giving up its mounted police unit. As a result, a group of business, civic, and nonprofit leaders are leading a fundraising drive to bring some of the decommissioned horses to Philadelphia, which disbanded mounted patrols in 2004.
The Philadelphia Police Foundation, Comcast Corp., 7-Eleven, Verizon Wireless, and at least one state senator, have already contributed or pledged funds for this effort. Officials say that mounted police can be very effective at crowd control outside sports stadiums, or during demonstrations and parades. Lt. Raymond Evers also says police on horseback sometimes have more flexibility than their fellow officers in cars. For instance, Evers says a horse can travel on sidewalks, navigate narrow streets, and jump over things. The police spokesman adds that a "horse can move a lot of people. Sometimes people don't want to listen to the cops, but they'll listen to a horse."
So far, the plan is to turn over four horses from the Newark police department to their counterparts in Philadelphia. They'll be boarded on a barn outside Philadelphia until the city is ready to call them to duty. When that happens depends on the final outcome of the fundraising drive, for which backers hope to raise $2 million. But for now, the city isn't going to look a gift-horse in the mouth.—Bruce Trachtenberg