The cavalry for Philadelphia's police department not only lacks depth of ranks — there are only nine horses currently — but the horses are also stabled in the suburbs. So it's not easy to deploy the horses in the city.
The mounted unit got a much-needed boost yesterday with the donation of two horse trailers from lawyer and philanthropist James Binns of the Cop Wheels program.
"This just increased my ability to deploy threefold," said Lt. Dan McCann, commander of the mounted unit.
Most of the the unit are limited to special events because they are still in training.
"The horses — and the officers — need to get better used to operating in an urban environment," McCann said. The department plans to eventually grow to 25 horses, establish regular beat patrols and find a permanent headquarters. The Police Department currently rents farm space outside of the city and is relying mainly on donations to finance and sustain the expansion.
But the cost and effort is worth it. “A mounted officer can equal ten police officers for crowd control situations,” said McCann, noting that a “ten-foot-up cop” can see over larger distances and be seen by more people, acting as a deterrent.
“It’s a cross between an officer in a car, who just drives by, and an officer on a beat, who can only cover a certain amount of geography,” he said. “Plus, there’s an important community relations aspect--the public loves them.”