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Horse to bike officer transfer would save PPB $585,000 per year

Posted by on January 19th, 2010 at 11:40 am

On a bike-along in SE Precinct

Bike Patrol in action
on SE Hawthorne.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) could save $585,000 per year if they were to make good on a proposal to dismantle their Mounted Patrol Unit and transfer four officers to downtown bike detail. The savings would come from reducing the number of employees from seven (currently on mounted patrol) to four (that would be put on bike detail).

Since our story on this last Wednesday, The Oregonian and KGW have picked up on the news.

Police Chief Rosie Sizer told KGW that replacing horses with bikes is “an effective strategy.” From KGW:

“They [new bike patrol officers] would be full time problem solvers, full time working on quality of life issues. The same as horse patrol unit, but they simply require less training time and less maintainance time,” Sizer said.

Story continues below

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And The Oregonian had this from a community member who participated in the Police Bureau budget advisory process:

“It’s kind of more Portlandy to have bikes than horseback riders,” Tuller said, “plus that land [where the horse stables are] is golden for the city.”

The O story also quotes Assistant Chief (and former Traffic Division Captain) Larry O’Dea who characterized the mounted patrol as “an expensive way to provide police service.”

In response to our story, many readers suggested that the PPB could save even more money by switching a few of their patrol cars to bikes. But that idea is a non-starter for several reasons. Commenter “PoPo” (who happens to be a Portland Police Officer) shared a few insights as to why the car-to-bike switch doesn’t fly:

“The big reason why it isn’t necessarily cheaper to make this switch is because patrol cars provide protection and carry tools for officers that make it safer for them to do their jobs.

Because bicycle-mounted officers do not have this protection or equipment, and are often dealing with more confrontational people as they deal with street-level order maintenance issues, they are generally deployed in pairs so they can help each other immediately if things go south.

That means you are paying the salaries of two officers at one time, which makes that unit almost twice as expensive as a one-officer, car-driving unit, which is how the vast majority of officers PPB officers are deployed.”

At a savings of $585,000, the line item “MPU [Mounted Patrol Unit] – eliminate and send 4 officers to bike detail” constitutes the largest single reduction of any measure on the PPB’s list of Draft Budget Reduction Proposals. The PPB must reduce it’s total budget ($156 million) by 2% for the 2010-2011 Fiscal Year. The Bureau’s list of proposed cuts totals just over $2.8 million.

The PPB will submit their budget reduction proposals to City Hall on February 1st. Then, for the next several months, various Commissioners will negotiate the cuts and the real horse-trading begins. Stay tuned for updates.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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AllanBikePortland.org » Blog Archive » Budget office: Cut horse cops, but don’t transfer them to bike patroljimJohnIdle thoughts while waiting on the end of the world « BikingInLA Recent comment authors
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brandon
Guest
brandon

Rarely do you see only one police car deployed to a scene. So the one cop, one car argument for the most part is lacking as an argument. Maybe situations would escalate less regularly if officers were required to be more diplomatic because of there vulnerability when on a bicycle.

Schrauf
Guest

Officers on horseback are effective (i.e. intimidating) for limited crowd control scenarios, but these are few and far between.

And PPB would benefit more long-term from community policing tactics promulgated in part by officers on bikes.

t27
Guest
t27

The bike boom of the 1890’s was brought on by the new technology of the bicycle and the high cost of maintaining a horse in the city. Good to see it only took 120 years for the Portland Police.

Dan Liu
Guest

Are bike patrols as effective as mounted patrols at crowd control? (As much as I disliked the PPB’s protest control tactics, I was always more comfortable confronting an indifferent horse than officers on bikes or motorcycles.)

Stochelo
Guest
Stochelo

I wonder if the switch from horses to bikes might force a more humane approach to crowd control on police–a bike giving the cop a less dominant physical position than a horse.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

PoPo’a explanation of the cost effectiveness of officers in pairs on horses compared to officers in pairs on bikes and solo in cars sounds reasonable.

Still, even though the PD can reduce its budget outlay by transferring officers over, I think it’s going to be a significant PR loss to the city not to have some law enforcement on horseback. Maybe in order to allow the PD to reduce its budget, the horses could be mounted by lesser paid security personnel or rangers to sustain an officer on horseback presence in the city.

Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief)
Guest

I don’t think it’s a good idea for the City to spend money on something simply for its “PR value.” If there are enough people concerned that a lack of horse officers would impact Portland’s PR, than let them find a way to pay for it.

We have rent-a-cops on bikes, why couldn’t they ride horses if it was really that big of a deal to keep them?

And as for PR value… cops on tall bikes would get way more attention than cops on horses! (kidding, sort of).

h
Guest
h

it would be sad to see the program go… i likes horses… bike is not as approcable as horses.

jcw
Guest
jcw

Would be a shame to see the horses go. It’s great to see them out downtown and I think helps make Portland Police more approachable.

Grumbley
Guest
Grumbley

maybe i am reading too much into this, but isn’t putting officer’s on bikes adding a certain “PR value” as well?

just sayin’.

Grumbley
Guest
Grumbley

i mean officers non-possessive.

thefuture
Guest
thefuture

This may come across as too much of a doomsday and a ‘what if’ scenario, but given what just happened in Haiti and the high likelihood of a major earthquake affecting our city (even if not as bad as Haiti) it seems that a police officer/doctor/etc. on a bike would easily be able to move about the city if roads and communications are damaged. Especially in the first few hours before big equipment arrives.

Cars are big, need gas, and can’t be picked up and carried over rubble or obstacles. Horses need food and water.

Also, the argument that a car can hold supplies? How bout purchasing one of the many cargo bikes or trailers available right here in Portland? Clever Cycles could make a sweet Patrol Bike!

Mike
Guest
Mike

No, there are a lot of practical reasons to have officers on bikes: it makes it easier for officers to interact with the public, by moving more slowly than cars they can see more of what’s going on, they can go places cars can’t. BikePortland has done some articles on it in the past with quotes from bicycle officers about how practical it is. I’m too tired to remember all the reasons.

Michael M.
Guest

thefuture (#12) — Actually, it was the 1906 San Francisco earthquake & fire that sent the popularity of the automobile soaring. Cars were none too popular in SF prior to the quake, and the earliest models couldn’t deal with the hills. But by ’06, after the quake cars could carry far greater quantities than bikes of water, food, and other supplies to areas horses were too spooked to go. Read “Seabiscut.”

Tiffany
Guest
Tiffany

I agree. Everyone loves seeing the horses downtown! And it does make the officers seem more approachable.

It would be sad to see mounted police dissolved and traded for more Portlanders on bikes.

Shawn Small
Guest

I can’t believe I found a topic to reference this song too.

Save a horse ride a cowboy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qt0_oPPK6eA

david....no the other one
Guest
david....no the other one

Sorry, somewhere I missed the five hundred thousand dollars in “saved” dollars, is it in the articule? It would seem to me that “one” car less would be more cost saving than one less horse. both need fuel, and shelter, maintence, or vet care. Since the shelter on the horses is already paid where is the saving at? New parts and service, cars being substituted when a unit(car)is “down”, service that the PPB dos’nt tell you about that they are required to do. Least of all the fact that most units are NOT sent out with out a backup unit. Where is the savings? Sorry, just tired of big numbers being thrown out there. Grandma would say “Seeings believing”

Nick
Guest
Nick

Crowd control aside, I for one love the image of both horses and bikes patrolling our city. I was raised with horses, and both of my daughters delight in walking up the horses and chatting with the mounted cops.

Go bikes, go horses. All the same team and worth the cost, IMO.

~n

Minister
Guest
Minister

I saw the look of fear and panic in a horse’s eyes in front of Niketown during a racous police crowd control action years ago and was convinced at that moment that it’s cruel to use horses in this manner. At least if cops use ATVs or bikes they’re not using another living being in the process. Good riddance.

beth h
Guest

Dear # 8 & 9:

horses are only more approachable if you have not had trauma with them in your history, or if really tall beings don’t intimidate you at all. I, for one, have NEVER found horses (and, by extension, the police officers who sit astride them) approachable.

I would much prefer to see those horse patrol officers reassigned to a mode of transportation that brings them to my eye level. I’m all for saving money, too. Expanding the bike unit sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

Jackattak
Guest
Jackattak

I love horses, and I like seeing the mounted police as much as the next person because it’s cute and all that crap, but if it saves the PPB $600,000/yr. then I’m all for abandoning this utterly useless and silly practice of having cops no horseback.

For Portland it would be a much bigger PR move to put more cops on bikes, anyway.

Meanoldmike
Guest

The PPB does not pay for the horses – the cost is paid by a private foundation – read the story: “…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.”

Northwest Girl
Guest
Northwest Girl

Could someone please explain how this savings is happening? If the PPB only pays for the officer’s salaries then where is the savings coming from? Four officers on horses are paid the same as four officers on bikes. I thought a foundation and other supporters paid for the stables and other stable expenses.

Allan
Guest
Allan

3 people maintain the horses – jobs would be cut. also feeding, etc would be cut and only bike maintenance would be required

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

I bet those patrol cars are awfully expensive to maintain too…

In the UK, many beat cops walk or bike.

Mark
Guest
Mark

re: Savings

Article says donsizing from 7 officers to 4. Saving 3 officer salery & benefits is probably $125k ea. Maybe more if there is a higher level officer like a Lt (don’t make me spell it) or a Captain

Matt Picio
Guest

How big is the police budget? How close does saving $585,000 get to the police goal of reducing the budget by 2%?

Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief)
Guest

Matt,

The police budget is $156 million and all the budget cuts they’re proposing total $2.8 million. So, this $585 gets them about 1/5 of their way to the 2% reduction goal.

low five
Guest
low five

Jonathan,

An additional, under-reported story in the proposed Police budget cuts is the elimination of Sergant position as head of the School Resource Officers (SROs).

SROs help ensure the travel environment around schools is safe, allowing students to bike or walk to school. They also train all of the student crossing guards throughout the city. Each officer is assigned a cluster of schools, so they get to know their communities, principals, students, etc and are able to do the kind of community policing that makes for better relations between police and communities they serve.

To eliminate this position (even for one year as the proposal suggests) would be the beginning of the end of a SRO program, leaving them with no school-minded leadership.

It would be a setback for all the work Portland is doing to make our streets safe for our young people.

Northwest Girl
Guest
Northwest Girl

Ok. Thanks for clarifying . Tired and didn’t read as carefully as I should have.

Matt Picio
Guest

Northwest Girl (#22)

The proposal would go from 1 sergeant, 6 officers and 2 stable attendants (who are listed in the article as “employees”) to 4 officers. That means a cut of 1 sergeant, 2 officers, and 2 attendants. At $585,000 that would be probably $60k per attendent, $80k per officer, and $120k for the sergeant. Salaries would be half those amounts – an employee typicalls costs 2x their salary once you figure in benefits, payroll taxes, and insurance costs. That’s $400k in savings – the other $185k probably comes from rental, lights & electricity and insurance for the stable, which would be the stable-related costs that aren’t covered by volunteers.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“maybe i am reading too much into this, but isn’t putting officer’s on bikes adding a certain “PR value” as well?” Grumbley #10

Grumbley, yes, officers on bikes are also good PR value for the city. Horses though, have a unique appeal to people that’s different from that of bikes. How many people do you see walking up to a bike cop and asking them if they can pet the cops bike or feed it a carrot from their lunch? A big animal such as a horse is an extraordinary thing in the city, and seems to have the ability to take some of the grittier away from it and the police department represented by the people that ride them.

“We have rent-a-cops on bikes, why couldn’t they ride horses if it was really that big of a deal to keep them?” Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief)

maus…yeah..I agree with security or, as you put it, rent-a-cops on horses instead of much higher paid fully sworn police officers. Didn’t I say this in comment #6?

The horse patrol isn’t only doing PR work. As I understand it, it is doing police work. Other people commenting have said so, and I personally have seen a fair number of examples first hand of the horse cops doing some impressive police work. Still, I recognize some of the economic, cost-effective considerations associated with their use.

If presented with a budget and a workable proposal, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone, or some persons, or a coalition of sorts in the city would be interested in hiring people to ride the horses. There may even be people that would be interested in volunteering for that job. Horse enthusiasts purse their interest in the equine species with a passion easily equal to that which bike enthusiasts have for their rides.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Correction:

“…seems to have the ability to take some of the grittier edge away from it…”

Northwest Girl
Guest
Northwest Girl

Matt # 27

Thank you!

PoPo
Guest
PoPo

There are also civilian support positions at the horse patrol that would be eliminated, which also accounts for part of the amount quoted above.

Of course all of these “positions” represent people and families and their livelihood.

Donna
Guest
Donna

I would miss the horses and be very sad about the jobs lost. However, we’ve got a really craptacular economy and it’s not likely to improve anytime soon. Everyone is going to have to deal with cuts when the revenue coming in is steadily dwindling.

Jackattak
Guest
Jackattak

@ Donna # 35 –

I agree. My wife is an interior architect and has been without a job since Feb ’09.

It’s a huge crap sandwich and everybody’s gotta take a bite, regardless of whether you’re a cop, a teacher, an architect, a barista, or a server in a restaurant.

Augustus
Guest
Augustus

The horses are a very effective and serve specific duties on the police force that bikes cannot. For many reasons, as expressed in various postings above, bikes are great and save money but cannot replace the mounted patrol.

redhippie
Guest
redhippie

I think the remaining cops on horseback should wear armor and carry lances. If we are going to do the horse thing, lets go whole hog and get every PR mile out of it. We might get a Renaissance fair out of it.

Perry
Guest
Perry

Wow, the smell of horses and mace downtown is kind of the harbinger of spring, isn’t it? Going to miss that…

jim
Guest
jim

let me get this straight- they want to cut our police protection by 2.8 million, they want to spend 1.3 million on 50s bike path, 384 k to paint arrows in the road.
This liberal govt has their spending priorities so far out of wac- we need to fire our cities CEO and city council and start fresh

Perry
Guest
Perry

Jim,

Are you sure you didn’t mean to post these comments here OregonLive?

trackback

[…] lane. Urbana, IL boldly removes parking to add bike lanes. Getting Portland’s mounted police off the saddle and onto bikes would save over $500,000. The drunken asshole driver who killed a cyclist in Miami […]

John
Guest

I’d be glad if they got rid of the horse cops. The horses always defecate in the street and leave large piles of poop that never gets cleaned up. Then it rains and spreads and gets all disgusting– PORTLAND CITY HALL– OUTLAW POLICE DEFECATION IN THE STREETS.

jim
Guest
jim

john-
if they hired clowns on bikes to follow the horses and shovel-up it would create more green jobs

jim
Guest
jim

Perry-
I didn’t realize that this was the start of the Adams recall. Thanks for pointing that out to us

trackback

[…] in January, we reported that in order to save $585,000, the Portland Police bureau was considering a transfer of their […]