Saying goodbye to the mounted police
As Wilsonville resident and Reserve Mounted Police Officer Cindy Tyree guided her horse through The Wall of Doom, she wondered how she had allowed herself to get into this situation. Thinking back, it had all been fairly innocent.
She merely answered an ad in an equestrian magazine from the Portland Reserve Mounted Police. Now she and her trusty horse Streaker were faced with a tarped wall cut into strips which they would need to walk through regardless of what might be waiting on the other side. If they could manage to negotiate that, a dark L-shaped plastic tunnel awaited them. Then there were a few things like yellow caution tape that needed walking into and under, and lots of flares to confront as well. The training exercise required a huge amount of faith between horse and rider, but Cindy and Streaker were equal to it.
Relating why she chose to become a Mounted Police Officer, Cindy says "I had this incredibly brave horse that I wanted to do something special with. I also had been searching for a way to combine my horseback riding hobby with my desire for volunteer work. Reserve Mounted Police Officer for the City of Portland seemed to provide both Streaker and me with a grand opportunity for an unforgettable adventure. Boy, did I NOT have a clue of what I was in for!"
What Cindy was in for was five long months of training as a reserve police officer. She learned to shoot a 9mm Glock, a 12-gauge shotgun, and drive a police car. She also learned to handcuff and search a suspect and if necessary, throw a 250-pound man to the ground in five seconds or less.
When she finally joined the Reserve Mounted Police, Cindy's duties included appearing in neighborhood parades, at the Rose Festival, at community events and throughout downtown Portland. She also spoke to horse clubs and 4H groups. She and her horse were the faces of the Police Bureau. "The Portland Police Department is an innovative leader in the practice of community policing and I feel my role as a reserve officer best epitomized this mission. I rode my horse among what I like to call the hostile, purple and punctured youth. Often these embittered kids gathered closer, charmed by the animal, and ready, perhaps, to see me as human."
Although the Reserve Mounted Police Patrol was phased out some time ago and Cindy's days of mounted service are over, it's clear that she had a positive impact upon the community in her role as a reserve. The Portland Mounted Police Unit, which patrolled city streets and was also called upon to provide crowd control at a time in which it is sorely needed, was recently disbanded as a cost-cutting measure.
Cindy questions how the Portland Police, who are experiencing a fair modicum of distrust from Portland's citizenry and who face a real challenge in its efforts surrounding crowd control, can afford to dismantle its mounted police force. "I feel that it is an unfortunate occurrence, as the horses are a great conduit between police and citizens and can help to break down the enmity that currently exists." And, if the situation requires it, they are also large, live, immovable barriers. Tear gas not required.
"I mourn the demise of the mounted police," Cindy says. It not only diminishes the culture of the city, but it makes us all a little less safe."