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Back in the saddle with the Calgary police mounted unit

Police Service Horse (PSH) Maverick

It’s a rebirth of sorts for one of the most recognizable — and beloved — units of the Calgary Police Service. 

Largely existing as a ceremonial and public relations entity since its inception in the 1970s, the officers and horses of the CPS mounted unit recently completed a two-year transition period — one that will see them become a more functional part of the city’s police presence. 

It’s a project largely overseen by Sgt. Kelly Oberg, handed the reins of the mounted unit in 2015 with orders to dramatically transform how — and where — the city’s police horses operate.

“My marching orders were to operationalize the Calgary Police Service mounted unit,” he said. “To remove us from just parks and pathways and get us more into an operational focus where we can impact crime in the community.”

As merely putting officers on horses isn’t enough to deploy an effective urban mounted unit, Oberg’s first job was to rebuild the unit from the ground up.

“There was a great deal of work that had to happen behind the scenes, which included extensive training of the appropriate horses and extensive training of the members,” he said.

Police Service Horse (PSH) Juno

That involved a complete revamp of the CPS herd, replacing horses deemed unsuitable for the unique challenges of urban policing. 

Also gone from the unit are the trademark black stetsons. Officers patrolling on horseback now wear white helmets Oberg says are better suited for the types of calls the unit are now deployed to — which involve taking the horses into terrain more challenging than just parks and pathways. 

Playing an enormous role in the unit’s two-year retooling was the talent and skill of Robin Koltusky, the civilian horse trainer hired by CPS shortly after Oberg’s arrival.

Oberg and Koltusky modelled their training after some of North America’s oldest and most respected mounted units, specifically the Toronto Police Service, which offered CPS the benefit of their more than 130 years of experience in the field. 

CPS’s current herd consists of five horses:  Maverick, Kelsey, Vimy, Ortona and the unit’s latest addition, Juno — a feisty eight-year-old gelding about to complete its training and become a badge-carrying member of the unit. 

The unit is currently searching for a sixth horse as a replacement for Ranger, which died in November 2016 after developing complications during a routine medical procedure.

Police Service Horse (PSH) Ortona

Juno, as with stablemates Ortona and Vimy, are named in homage to historical Canadian battles, a tradition the CPS mounted unit started last year with the addition of Vimy. 

While officers on mountain bikes provide the ability to access areas motorized vehicles can’t, horses are able to go places even the hardiest bike patrol can’t go.

“It does open up almost the entire city — arduous terrain, riverbanks,” he said. “There is quite a bit of social disorder, there can be crime down at the river throughout the summer months. We are able to patrol where, unless officers were on foot, they wouldn’t be able to get to.”

Perhaps the unit’s biggest advantage, Oberg said, are the horses’ inherent imposing nature, which he says plays a big role in not only stopping crime but preventing it. 

“Our level of force is our presence,” he said.

Police Service Horse (PSH) Kelsey

“If someone was making bad decisions and was looking to commit some crime, very often they would see the officer on the horse and perhaps they would make a different decision.

“I certainly wouldn’t want to mess with an 1,800-pound animal.”

That seemed to be the case the evening of Aug. 17, when the mounted unit scored its first collar since redeployment. 

Assisting patrol and K9 in the search for three armed suspects, a four-horse troop of Ortona, Juno, Vimy and Maverick managed to chase them down and place them in custody.

Upon realizing their pursuers were four police horses at full gallop, two of the suspects immediately threw up their hands and surrendered. 

The third kept running but, after realizing he wasn’t about to outrun a horse, he similarly gave himself up. 

“They absolutely serve, in my opinion, to de-escalate a lot of these situations,” he said. 

Reaction to the mounted unit’s increased presence in the city has been overwhelmingly positive, judging by feedback garnered both online and by the crowds

Police Service Horse (PSH) Vimy

that inevitably follow their patrols. 

“My perception is that the public absolutely adores the fact they have an opportunity to see the police horses,” he said.

“I’ve had the opportunity to meet people while on horseback on patrol … they respond to it, and really enjoy that opportunity.”


Calgary Police Mounted Unit Facts:
Founded: 1978
Number of horses: 5
Number of members: 6 (1 Sergeant, 4 Constables, 1 Civilian trainer)

Canadian Municipal Police Mounted Units (by size):
Toronto Police Service: 27
Vancouver Police Department:
9
Montreal Police Service: 8
Hamilton Police Service: 5
Royal Newfoundland Constabulary: 4
Halifax Regional Police: 2

 

Cst. Rob MacLeod of the Calgary Police Mounted Unit poses for a photo on Juno in Calgary on Wednesday August 23, 2017.

 

Calgary Police Service Mounted Unit members Const. Rob MacLeod (on PSH Ortona) and Const. Attila Horvath (on PSH Vimy)

 

Const. Dave Lomheim of the CPS Mounted Unit sits atop his mount, PSH Kelsey

 

 

 

 

FUENTE:

http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/back-in-the-saddle-with-the-calgary-police-mounted-unit