The Portland Police Bureau's Mounted Patrol Unit came under scrutiny about five years ago as the city faced budget constraints. The unit staged out of an old stable that falling apart. Plus, the bureau faced new challenges of doing police business in an urban setting.
As reporter Jim Redden noted in a 2014 article, "Portland police have used horses, off and on, since 1887. A sign posted at the Centennial Mills headquarters lists the benefits of mounted officers, including greater visibility that increases their crime prevention effectiveness, the ability of horses to respond quickly in congested areas, and their accessibility to residents, business owners and visitors."
But in 2013, then-Mayor Charlie Hales faced a $21.5 million funding gap and proposed a budget that, among other things, would have eliminated 55 positions in the Police Bureau.
One way to reach that goal: Cut the mounted horse patrols.
At that time, the unit consisted of eight horses, four officers, a sergeant, an equestrian trainer and two stable attendants. The cost of maintaining the unit hovered around $800,000 per year.
Hales also wanted to spend more money on "beat" officers on walking patrols; community outreach; and on drug and violence enforcement.
In 2013, the independent Friends of the Mounted Patrol, a nonprofit organization, promised to raise $200,000 annually to support the unit. Dozens of people came to public hearings to praise the unit. Those efforts saved the unit from chopping block.
The horse patrol came under budget scrutiny again in 2014, when a city agency declared the existing horse stables unsafe, forcing the horses to be relocated to a farm in Aurora. The unit had been housed at the aging former flour mill on Northwest Naito Parkway and Ninth Avenue since 2001.
The fate of the mounted patrol became a campaign issue in 2016 when mayoral candidate Jules Bailey — who lost the election — promised to restore officer positions to the unit.
But was under Mayor Ted Wheeler's watch that the end of the unit finally came about. The Mounted Patrol Unit finally was disbanded in August 2017 after four decades of full-time service.
Reporter Jim Redden contributed to this article.