(POLICE HORSES) WINNIPEG — As a cost-cutting measure, the Winnipeg Police Service may cut its mounted patrol unit, which consists of two officers and two black Percheron thoroughbred horses. The officers believe these horses help police form more cordial relationships with community members. Read on for more on these two horses in Winnipeg. — Global Animal
The Winnipeg Police may cut its mounted patrol unit. Photo credit: Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press

Winnipeg Free Press, Gabrielle Giroday

The Winnipeg Police Service mounted patrol unit might be riding into the sunset.

The two-horse unit, which has been patrolling the downtown core, the Exchange District, The Forks, North End and at special events throughout the city for years, could be shut down, according to police sources.

In the past, two full-time officers have assigned to the unit, riding black Percheron thoroughbreds named Amaro and Titus, who are boarded at a private stable near Birds Hill Park. The unit falls under the WPS community relations unit.

Retired police officer Darrell Brown, who founded the unit in the 1990s, said the cancellation of the unit would be “devastating.”

He said the unit has had strong support from many groups in the hope “the mounted patrol would reach out to the people that had the most resentment towards the police.”

“You’ve got to realize that the majority of the time when the police deal with people in the North End — for the most part, not always — but we’re locking up Mom and Dad, or Junior, we’re taking them away in handcuffs,” said Brown, who retired from the WPS in 2010. “So, it’s a very negative interaction all the time.

“(But) I never had as much interaction with the public as I did when I was on a horse. People want to talk to you. They want to know what’s going on.”

The mission statement for the mounted patrol unit includes goals that “enhance community confidence and approachability through public interaction with the utilization of horses” and “provide police response and resources on horseback.”

Asked Thursday if the unit is being shelved, the Winnipeg Police Service issued a statement saying a final decision has not been made.

“The police service is presently examining the organization in preparation for possible reduction in the operating budget,” the WPS said.

“This is strictly a preliminary review as no decisions have been made by the police service pending council approval of the 2012 operating budget.”

Council’s protection and community services chairwoman Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) said as part of the “budgetary process” the police service was asked to find savings.

She said it’s her understanding the unit is not officially slated for closure.

“They’re looking at what’s essential and what’s not, and so whether they’re cutting it or not, I doubt it,” she said. “I mean, we would have to review that at council.”

More Winnipeg Free Press: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/police-horse-unit-could-be-going-out-to-pasture-139501748.html