In 1982 the Orlando Police Department activated its Mounted Patrol Unit with two horses stabled at Ben White Raceway. Some considered the horses to be a public relations gimmick, but their value as an operational unit was quickly realized. The high vantage point of the rider coupled with the ease and speed the horses allow them to negotiate difficult areas, including crowded parking lots, swampy bogs and construction sights. This proved them an instant success. Over the years, the Orlando Police Department's Mounted Patrol Unit has grown to eight horses, with six full time officers and a sergeant They occupy their own stables at 221 S. Rio Grand Avenue.
Any sworn officer may apply for mounted duty, and the competition is stiff. Officers selected must complete six to eight weeks of training, requiring 180-200 hours in the saddle. The shifts vary, depending on need, but the work day is either 8 or 10 hours. At least 50% of that time, the officer is expected to be in the saddle.
The Mounted Patrol Unit initially tasked to work special events, such as rock concerts, crowd control, and routinely patrol the downtown corridor. They now enjoy a wider range of assignments including working in neighborhoods which have been identified to have specific problems such as burglaries, auto burglaries, missing person searches, etc. The officers also conduct school programs, meet with civic groups, and conduct barn tours for the public.
It seems that everybody loves a horse, yet due to their size, eight horses can move a crowd that would normally require 100 officers. But, when moved by horses, there is a noticeably less hostility towards the police action; truly a winning combination.
For more information about the Orlando Police Department's Mounted Patrol Unit, contact:
Orlando Police Department
Mounted Patrol Unit
100 S. Hughey Avenue
Orlando, FL 32801
or call (407) 246-2610