Thursday, March 19, 2009

Send in your resumes now...

I noticed something odd on Tuesday, and I'm trying to wrap my head around what this scenario means. Basically, as I was leaving my office and walking to the subway, I saw a police officer....on horseback.

Now, one might argue: It was St. Patrick's Day. They probably had police officers on horseback at the parade. And that's what I thought at first -- until I remembered that I work about 70 blocks from the START of the parade. And I don't think there are any stables in the financial district, so unless that cop was getting on the Staten Island ferry with his equine companion, I'm still at a loss.

Perhaps its because I work two blocks from Wall Street, but this unusual sighting got me to thinking about what having cops on horseback actually means in these tough economic times. Is this a reflection of the recession (cops can no longer afford cars?) or a sign that we are rebounding (I mean, if HORSES aren't getting laid off, that has to be good, right?)? Is this particular police officer being rewarded, or is March horseback duty some sort of punishment? Are there any real perks and/or REASONS to ride a horse while protecting our fair city from anything other than Jesse James somehow coming back from the dead?

Does anyone have any thoughts on the issue? Or at least more creative ideas as to why a horse would be fighting heavy traffic on Broadway on a Tuesday afternoon?


Alicia said...

My uncle was a mounted NYPD officer for 20 years. They are used as crowd control- They can get a lot closer to groups during massive events and shockingly people are less afraid in a mob of a car than they are of a horse. It allows the officer a better view of a potentially dangerous crowd as well. You may also notice the mounted officers at Yankee Stadium and big concerts.

There is a really cool photo of me with my uncle on his horse handing out toys before Christmas to a crowd of homeless children outside a shelter when I was like 4.

To answer your question about logistics, to my knowledge there are stables at several key stations in Manhattan.

Lauren said...

Thanks Alicia -- That makes a lot of sense and I would love to see that picture sometime!!

Lauren said...

Also (now I'm really interested!) -- you say your uncle was a "Mounted NYPD" -- does this mean he was always stationed with the horse? Do you know if mounted officers (or your uncle in particular) are originally trained with the horses or join the PD with prior riding knowledge and then choose to work in that division?

I guess if they are crowd control, that is necessary all over NYC on St. Patty's day -- not just at the parade.

You learn something new every day :-)

Alicia said...

Well, from what I remember... He did horse training following his training at the police academy. He was a mounted officer for about 2/3 of his time on the force, so it was less than 20 years I think, but definitely more than 10. The mounted officers are a specially trained force, chosen both for their horsemanship and personalities (they must act like ambassadors for the city, and need to be less gruff than your average cop), and are paired with one horse that is "theirs" for the duration of that horse's time with the NYPD.

After a certain number of years, my uncle was transferred to the harbor unit, but occasionally got called to work mounted for special events.

He got to see Red Sox/Yankees series and I believe one of the world series during his time there, but after 9/11, the harbor unit became a lot more vital as the NYPD needed officers to monitor and patrol the bridges in and out of the city.