The Gainesville Police Department Mounted Patrol Unit performs three primary functions: crowd control, crime deterrence and community relations. The horse and rider teams overall size and height combine to make them a formidable force to be reckoned with in large, and sometimes disruptive crowd situations. In large crowd situations, one mounted patrol unit (horse and rider) is equal to 8-10 officers on foot. Crowds of unruly and or intoxicated individuals are more inclined to move out of the way of a mounted officer. This reduces the potential for officer or civilian injury, in a hostile situation where a crowd might try to stand their ground against officers on foot.
When choosing a horse for the mounted patrol unit, we look at overall size of the horse, temperament, age, drive and self confidence of the horse. The horse must be at least 16 hands tall, be of sound physical foundation and preferably 8-11 years old. The national average length of service for a horse working in a patrol capacity is five to seven years. The Gainesville Police Department currently has three patrol ready horses, however six horses is the optimal number. The horse and rider must complete a 200 hour training course and then continues to train at least 10 hours a week. Riders never pass up a chance to encounter new experiences when the opportunity presents itself. Riders must also meet minimum requirements of no less than two years of patrol experience, clean Internal Affairs record and good standing in yearly evaluation. The candidate must also successfully complete a selection process of physical and equine related skills before being assigned to the Mounted Patrol Unit.
Mounted Patrol Officers are an excellent crime deterrent because of their overall size and height advantage. Not only is the mounted officer a more visible presence to the public, but sitting in the saddle eight or nine feet tall, the mounted officer is able to scan large areas not visible to a officer on foot or in a patrol car. Additionally mounted officer are able to go places that are inaccessible to patrol units, and when necessary, can take short cuts across terrain that would otherwise present a barrier. The GPD Mounted Patrol Units conduct increased patrols of the Oaks Mall parking lots during the holiday shopping season, helping to reduce the number of vehicle burglaries, assaults and other personal or property crimes.
Mounted Patrol Officers also excel as ambassadors for positive community relations for GPD. No matter where the Mounted Patrol Units are working, they always draw a crowd of curious citizens. A citizen who would never approach an officer in a patrol car will regularly visit with Mounted Patrol Unit Officers. The Mounted Patrol Unit is often invited to community events such as National Night Out, the Black Stallion Literacy Project and the local Law Enforcement Memorial.