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).
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.
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.