Goodwill Ambassadors on Street Patrol
Love horses? Then you will love Newark, where horses (and their mounted officers) can be found patrolling the city’s streets and parks, outdoor concerts, sporting events, parades and college campuses, keeping streets safe and secure – and bringing smiles as a bonus.
Created in 1891, the Newark Police Mounted Section has been an important part of the city’s police department for more than a century, with a hiatus when the unit was disbanded in 1974 then reinstituted in 1987, according to Newark Police Officer Luis Camacho who is instructor and trainer for the mounted officers.
The horses are all Standardbreds, a breed originally known for its prowess in harness racing but one that has been found to have a steady temperament, stamina and enjoyment of human companionship. The patrol horses are used year round, although not when there’s inclement weather. They are always stabled in the mounted facility on Orange Street in Newark and are groomed, fed and exercised daily.
Newark Police Mounted Officers are assigned to street patrol, whether in a residential neighborhood or in a business district. In fact, one mounted officer is able to patrol an area, which would require several officers on foot within an assigned patrol grid.
“Overall, mounted patrol is an efficient and effective method of patrol and a vital part of the Newark Police Division’s modern crime prevention efforts,” Camacho said.
The mounted unit is also utilized at concerts, festivals and at many community-oriented events, he added. They are also great for public relations. “Mounts are popular with adults and children wherever they are deployed. Their presence always results in positive community/police interactions and conversations,” the officer said. The horses also have great names, including Commander, Major Noble, Justice and Bold Ruler (Not the same horse that won the Preakness Stakes in 1957.) One horse, Sharpe Shooter, was named after former Newark Mayor Sharpe James who had reinstated the mounted patrol.
The mounted section currently has 10 horses and seven officers who work with them, Camacho explained. All police officers undergo six weeks of training to cover everything from care and feeding of horses to riding instruction to rules and procedures of horsemanship.
The officer said he personally enjoys working with the horses. “I enjoy horseback riding, and I also enjoy the fact the mounts are equally effective at fighting crime and creating positive police community interactions,” he noted. “I think it is important that additional, specialized training is required for members of the unit to become proficient. All mounted officers take pride in their personal appearance and that of the horses because we are an extremely visible representation of what the Newark Police Division stands for.”
The Mounted Patrol was recently the subject of a special project and film by Erica Tom, an equestrian and graduate student at Rutgers University-Newark as well as director of arts & education at Belos Cavalos (beautiful horses in Portuguese), a 501( c) (3) equine experiential nonprofit in Sonoma Valley, California.
“I decided to create the public arts and education event Horses of Newark because I wanted to share with the public what I was learning about the police and horses, and the history of this relationship in the city,” Tom said.
“With a team of volunteers, including current Rutgers students Addie Mahamassani, Keishla Rivera, Amy Lucker and historian Dr. Daniel Vandersommers, we offered over 80 children attending school in Newark the opportunity to learn about the history of how the horse helped build the city and to spend time meeting the horses and officers in the Newark Mounted Police Unit,” Tom added.
When Tom began her Ph.D. in American Studies at Rutgers University-Newark, she thought her time with horses was over. However, during her first month at Rutgers, walking down Bleeker Street, she heard the familiar clip-clop of horse hooves. “I turned to see the mounted police and knew what my next research project would focus on, the impact of the horse-human relationship in the unit” she said.
“My study revealed that no matter what side of the law you are on, or who you are, learning to communicate and build relationships with horses had a positive impact on the individuals, as well as those around them,” explained Tom. For the link to a video of the event, click here:
The carousel at Military Park honors the equine history of Newark, with its 16 beautiful animals representing George Washington’s steed and the trotters that raced at Weequahic Park to the strong workhorses that pulled street cars, milk delivery and even ambulances. And yes, you too can be a mounted officer, at least for the length of a ride, when you sit proudly atop the police horse.
Story By: Allison Freeman
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