(Photo: Police Bureau)
The Portland Police Police Bureau, like all City bureaus, is facing another year of budget cuts. The PPB must reduce their budget for the coming year by 2% (other, non public safety bureaus have to cut 4%). One idea that has been proposed is to dissolve their Mounted Patrol Unit and transfer the officers to bicycle patrol.
The idea was mentioned last night at the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting by acting Captain of the Traffic Division, Bryan Parman (who’s filling in for the still injured Eric Hendriks), and we confirmed the news today with the PPB’s Public Information Officer Mary Wheat.
Currently, the PPB’s Mounted Patrol Unit consists of nine full-time employees: six officers, one Sergeant and two stable attendants. The proposal — which came up through a budget advisory committee and is still very preliminary at this point — is to discontinue the horse-mounted patrol and switch the officers to bike patrol.
According to PIO Mary Wheat, the downtown bicycle detail would gain four officers as part of the proposal.
Equestrian officers are not common in the United States and Portland’s Mounted Patrol Unit is made possible in large part through the support of a private foundation that pays for the stables (located on Naito Parkway north of the Broadway Bridge) and other expenses. The PPB only pays the officer’s salaries.
Horse-mounted officers are used primarily for crowd-control and to combat “street crime.” According to the PPB’s website, “The mounted officer is an effective method of crime prevention especially in the downtown area due to the high visibility factor and quick response capability in congested areas.”
The same could be said for officers on bicycles. The major difference with bike patrol officers is the height and visibility (which begs the question, why not put officers on tall bikes?).
In December 2007, Police Chief Rosie Sizer awarded several bike patrol officers a special award for their “immeasurable impact on the community”, but unfortunately, the Bureau has not made funding of bike patrol a priority. In January 2007, the former leader of the now-defunct Southeast Precinct Bike Patrol Unit wrote a guest article on this site asking for more funding for bike patrol officers.
This proposal is in its initial stages, and it still must survive the lengthy budget process that will heat up in the coming months. We’ll keep you posted as the process moves forward.