Green Zebra SE Division Store Now Open!

Budget office: Cut horse cops, but don’t transfer them to bike patrol

Posted by on March 19th, 2010 at 8:57 am

PPB Mounted Patrol Unit-1

Mounted Patrol Unit in action downtown.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Back in January, we reported that in order to save $585,000, the Portland Police bureau was considering a transfer of their horse-mounted units to bike patrol. The idea is to shut down the Mounted Patrol Unit (MPU) and redeploy four formerly horse-mounted officers to work bike patrol in Central Precinct (downtown).

Last week, the City of Portland’s Financial Planning Division (FPD) released analysis of that proposal and recommended the elimination of the Mounted Patrol Unit, but they do not recommend the transfer of those officers to bike patrol.

On a bike-along in SE Precinct

Four more of them downtown
would cost the city $308,000.

While the budget office acknowledged that the horse-mounted officers have, “value as a community policing and crowd control tool,” they added that they, “appear to be less important to bureau operations than most other specialty units.” According to the budget office the MPU was rated 25 out of 36 programs on the core mission scale and second to last on the “community importance scale.”

So, why not have those officers just trade a horse saddle for a bike saddle? $308,000. That’s how much the Police Bureau would save by not redeploying them as bike patrol officers. Instead of four new bike mounted officers, the FPD recommends that the $308,000 in savings goes toward filling the “tow revenue gap” (I’ve got an email into the police bureau to find out what that is).

Understanding the value of bike officers (the Police Chief honored their “immeasurable impact” to the community back in 2007), the FPD says they make the recommendation “with some misgivings” because:

“… the establishment of routine bike patrols in downtown and Old Town would mitigate some of the community policing impacts of losing the MPU. However, some opportunities must be foregone in times of financial hardship and the bureau simply cannot operate without some action to restore its materials & service budget to a sustainable level.”

These recommendations will be forwarded to the Mayor and City Council, where the final budget decisions will be made. Learn more about the budget process (it’s going on now!) on the City’s Community Budget website.

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

28 Comments
  • Avatar
    Nick V March 19, 2010 at 9:23 am

    If nothing else, I imagine the horses will be much happier.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Loren March 19, 2010 at 9:35 am

    First we think we can save $585k by taking four horse mounted officers and putting them on bikes. Then it turns out it will actually cost $308k to put them on bikes. It costs 77,000 dollars to equip and train a bicycle officer? Am I missing something? There has to be more to this story, otherwise, this is absurd.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 19, 2010 at 9:47 am

      Loren,

      The $585,000 (estimated, but close to actual) also includes cuts to personnel (both officers and non-sworn positions), operations, maintenance, and other expenses associated with running the horse stables. The $308,000 in savings that the FPD wants the bureau to put into the tow revenue gap is the money that would be spent to continue to pay for four F/T police officers to ride bikes instead of horses.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    matt picio March 19, 2010 at 9:36 am

    Nick (#1) – I think that’s going to depend entirely on who their new owners are, and where they’re kept. I certainly hope so – they deserve a good life, especially after all that time on pavement.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    city budget broken by brutality... March 19, 2010 at 9:36 am

    I think TOW revenue gap is the amount of money they pay in settlements for when they hook people up to the back of a police car and “tow” them around the city…or similar things resulting in massive settlements against the city.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    matt picio March 19, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Loren (#2) – you’re missing officer salaries and benefits. When FPD says “save money by not transferring to bikes”, they mean eliminate the horse cops and add the officers to the ranks of the newly unemployed. The cost of an officer to the city is roughly double the officer’s salary, so that works out to about $38k a year per officer.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    wsbob March 19, 2010 at 10:24 am

    The police department feels compelled to reduce the overall number of officers in the force. Horse mounted and bike patrol is where those cuts are being planned. A future increase in officers to the force would not be assigned to bike or horse patrol.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    craig March 19, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I took my family (5 kids) walking in Waterfront Park on Wednesday. We walked right up to two horse cops, who were doing nothing but **leisurely** strolling the water front path. My five kids–including a toddler–said “Hi!” to the horses and cops, and they said, “hi”, and rode right by without stopping. What exactly is their mission supposed to be?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Southerner March 19, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Yea, obviously this means job elimination, not that it costs 300,000 to train cops for bike duty.

    Also, I believe “tow revenue gap” refers to less income from towing illegally cars. When you increase bike traffic, you reduce car usage, which reduces a major city income source. Make sense?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Southerner March 19, 2010 at 11:06 am

    illegally *parked cars

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    resopmok March 19, 2010 at 11:08 am

    I think if the city was willing to transfer from cops from the cruisers on to bikes or foot patrol, especially in the downtown cores, they could probably see some savings as well – if not on for the insurance, gas and upkeep of each car they can eliminate. Even turning one or two patrols on to bikes in some of the “closer-in” NE and SE neighborhoods would go a long way to improving disorderliness in bar districts as well as increasing visibility to the public.

    While it’s true that one patrol may not be able to respond as quickly over two miles away, I’m not saying we get rid of all the cruisers, but at least this way officers could keep their jobs and continue serving the public.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Oh Word? March 19, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Craig- they were working. They’re police officers, not a tourist attraction.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    craig March 19, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    My understanding of “community policing” includes directly interfacing with the community. Any other (non-horse) cop approached by a kid would stop, ask questions, offer a sticker, etc.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    alex March 19, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    i am not sad to see them go. my issue with the mounted patrol was their disregard for public safety. as commuter that crosses over the river on the burnside bridge i often encountered horse excrement in bike lane. with buses whizzing by just a few feet away at 30mph i can only imagine what would happen if someone lost traction.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Dave March 19, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    People who’ve never dealt with horses always seem to have this idea that they’re barely tolerating their human masters, and all they really want is to frolick in a green pasture.

    These animals will be very bonded to the officers they work with, and very accustomed to the work they do. It is exactly as if you and a close friend were laid off from a job together. They may land elsewhere and find a good second life, or they may not. No matter what it will be traumatic for them in the short term, and very likely worse in the long term than the care and stimulation they get now.

    Not that the decision should be made based on the animals feelings, but I take a little offense at the idea they’ll automatically be better off if the mounted unit is disbanded.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    ME 2 March 19, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Sarcasm alert: Maybe in response to “these hard financial times” the budget office should recommend euthanizing the horses to make glue so we can reduce the PPS supply budget.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Dave March 19, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    And don’t forget, hide for baseballs to the Beavers when they get their new stadium. This could be a big win for everybody.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Southerner March 19, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Those horses are pretty decent stock. It is generally more lucrative to sell the horse for other purposes than sell it for glue–although I like the revenue generating mentality, this city needs it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Spiffy March 19, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    I may have some idea what “tow revenue gap” is… back when I had a car I parked it on 92nd under the I-205 overpass… the next day it was gone… I called to report it stolen and the police said it was impounded because the driver was drunk… after explaining that I was the driver, and that the drunk kid who was puking by my car and was arrested was not, they ended up paying for the cost of towing and storing my car with a local tow company… so if the police can’t even be bothered to verify who a vehicle belongs to before towing it I can see how they might need more money for that category…

    as for illegally parked cars the tow company gets the money from those and there’s no cost to police other than some paperwork…

    as for the horses, as an animal lover I would like to think that they’d be happier mulling around in a pasture somewhere… however there are some animals that need a task in order to be happy… without a job some animals get depressed… so let’s hope they go to a place that will maintain them as well as we hope the police were…

    (and here’s hoping that Jonathan approves my forum membership soon) (:

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    wsbob March 19, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Dave…exactly right. The horse patrols’ mounts are very well trained and cared for. These horses are in great condition and very beautiful. The opportunity for the public to see, close at hand, examples of working animals, has been one of the great things about the horse patrol, as it is with the K-9 unit dogs.

    Carriage horses? That’s quite a different thing that I’m not nearly as sure about. Those horses are all owned and cared for private individuals. Looks like some are receiving good care, and some may be lacking. Just my personal non-expert impression.

    craig…as the person commenting at #12 said, the mounted patrol guys you and your son saw, were probably on a call, or had a schedule to keep that didn’t allow them to linger and talk with you and your son on that particular occasion. Try them again before the PD has them disappear entirely.

    When they’re not on an urgent call, I’ve seen the horse patrol officers stop downtown many, many times and talk with people, answering questions, letting people pet and feed the horses carrots, hand out badge stickers to kids… the works.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Southerner March 19, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Spiffy, great story! That is ridiculous the police allowed for a car to be impounded without verification. However, that has to be rare–not tow revenue gap.

    However, towing companies do not receive the full amount you pay them for towing costs. If that were the case, the city would just ticket rather than ever tow, right? Parking violations (tickets and towing) are city revenue generators. Less driving, less parking, less revenue.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    matt picio March 19, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Southerner (#9) – also, the state changed the towing policy. Tow companies were getting a little too aggressive, and the legislature had to curtail the towing activities a bit.

    http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2009/04/oregon_house_puts_patrol_towin.html

    Spiffy’s anecdote is one example of that.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Barney March 19, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Nick #1

    A well trained and working horse is generally in the best physical and mental condition. It is often “retired” horses who suffer the most from neglect. The term “put out to pasture” does not reflect a positive situation.

    The thing about horse patrols is that there are many jobs that they do better than any other mode. Public safety is enhanced by having these animals available for the right situation. If you prefer riot gear and tear gas for crowd control I guess thats fine. Mounted officers have proven to be superior for this all over the country. Just ask New Orleans at Mardi Gras or NYC at New Years. It is true that you don’t have to feed and Armored Personnel Carrier but when a horse patrol is needed you can’t just conjure one up on demand.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Jon March 19, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    I agree with alex (#14) that the bike lanes on the Burnside Bridge are dangerous enough without horse crap obstacles. I’ve never actually seen a police horse on the bridge but I assume that’s the source. Has anyone ever determined that the police are responsible? If it’s too dangerous to get off their horses to clean up after them, it should probably tell them that the poop might be hazardous to the bicyclists.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Vance Longwell March 20, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Noobs. One word, tradition. Anathema to uninitiated, vile to the self-loathing white liberal. I know, I know, but tradition is part of the cultural landscape. Culture is part of pride, and you simply may not have any more of mine. Let the raping of Portland culture continue, I like the brochures better anyway. Who cares about tradition when it’s just those filthy whites?

    You ding-a-lings live less than 150 miles from the largest annual rodeo in America, and then wonder why there’s a mounted patrol in P-Town. Priceless. Ignorance can, and quite frequently does, transcend book-learnin’, you know?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    wsbob March 22, 2010 at 12:27 am

    “Noobs. One word, tradition. …

    …You ding-a-lings live less than 150 miles from the largest annual rodeo in America, and then wonder why there’s a mounted patrol in P-Town.” v longwell

    Oregon’s got more than rodeo horse related culture. It’s got the fine, blue-blooded English riding horse culture too..dressage, steeple chase…the hunt. Smart horses. Takes smart people to train, understand, and ride them.

    The cops do a pretty good job with their steeds, in terms of being able to have them intelligently respond to rider commands. From the mounted patrol, the public gets a lot more for than their money than just nostalgic reverie.

    Despite that, it makes a good show of fiscal responsibility to suggest discontinuing the horse patrol.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    spare_wheel March 22, 2010 at 8:10 am

    “self-loathing white liberal”

    i personally have never met a white librul who does not like other white libruls. now libertarians…thats another matter.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Daniel Ronan April 6, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Jonathan, did you ever find out what the “tow revenue gap” meant?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar