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Archive for Sunday, January 22, 2006

K.C. police to use horses to patrol parks, downtown

January 22, 2006

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— The Police Department plans to add a mounted unit for officers atop horses to patrol parks, downtown and special events.

Police and officials from the Parks and Recreation Department began meetings this week to work out an agreement that could have the unit begin training in March, depending on funding approval.

The unit would be based at an existing stable complex in Swope Park. Chief James Corwin wants it for law enforcement and to connect with young people and promote better community relations.

"One of Chief Corwin's visions is to take an officer out of his car going down the street with the windows rolled up," said Aric Anderson, administrative officer for the proposed equine unit. "A horse draws people - kids and adults."

Police already have eight horses and expect the new unit to initially include four mounted officers, a mounted sergeant and an administrative officer. The program is estimated to cost $533,462 in 2006.

Parks officials and police collaborated on a mounted patrol in 1995, but budget cuts forced its disbanding. Last fall, police again experimented with using mounted officers downtown, in Westport and on the Country Club Plaza.

This time, the unit could be assigned to high-crime areas to help search-and-rescue efforts and for crowd control at festivals and other special events.

"I know we'll have a presence downtown, and I expect we'd have a presence in Westport and around the city," Anderson said.

The police were among three entities vying to use the Lake of the Woods Riding Academy.

The mounted police unit plans to provide riding and grooming lessons through summer camps and other youth programs.

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