FROM THE EDITOR
In the last couple of months, in this space, we've discussed what keeps Portland the city it is that causes people to make the decision to stay here for life, and which draws new residents to join us.
Another was the mounted police patrol downtown, as a lengthy article in our sister newspaper, the Portland Tribune, by Ainslie Cromar, with contributions by Jim Redden, reminded us on the day after Labor Day. It appears to us that the Portland City Council has trouble seeing the forest for the trees, and is determined to make the Rose City feel a lot more like the big city it actually is. What a shame.
Although the Mounted Patrol never got as far out as the streets of Inner Southeast Portland, if you were ever downtown you may have seen it in action. And if you missed that article, we present a condensed version of it below. . .
"The last round-up"
It was a surreal image: Two horses, tied to a parking meter outside a café in downtown Portland, as if a passer-by had stepped out of the modern-day city and into a Western film.
But the passers-by would know where the police were: Sitting inside, with one eye on their steeds and one eye on the streets.
Portland's Mounted Patrol Unit was created in 1872 with a horse-drawn trolley. The unit underwent trials before fizzling out in the 1940s. Then, with one sergeant and two officers, the unit was reinstated in 1979 – before being disbanded again in 2017.
And up until the end, they gave an Old West vibe to urban Portland. "They'd pull up there and tie their horse up to the parking meter and go and have coffee," recalled Larry Kanzler, former commander of Portland's Mounted Patrol Unit and the sergeant who reinstated it in 1979.
This June marked a year since their final time suiting up, before the unit was disbanded due to budget cuts. The disbanding impacted the horses, their previous owners, the officers who rode them, and the greater Portland community.
While some people feel nostalgia for the program's existence, all are happily welcoming the horses to their final homes in retirement.
Kanzler, who [after retiring with his wife Cheryl from the Police Bureau] relocated the retired horse Major to his land near Prineville, remarked that it's a whole new life for the horses and the community. Cheryl Kanzler joked that Major probably asks himself daily, "Where's my meter?" Instead, she said, "He gets tied to some sagebrush."
All eight horses that patrolled with Portland's police now are scattered, and tied up in new places.
Murphy went back home to southern Oregon where he's competing in dressage, a highly skilled form of riding; Red, Monty and Asher are with families who wish to keep their locales private. Major found his place in Prineville, while Diesel went back home to Port Orchard, Washington. Olin aids people with mental or physical barriers as a therapy horse at Forward Stride in Beaverton; and Zeus lives with a former Mounted Patrol stable attendant at the Lake Oswego Hunt Club.
Trainer Jennifer Mack said thatRed was the first to leave. He cried and nickered at everyone one last time from inside the horse trailer.
"It hit home when Red left," said Jennifer Mack, his trainer. "That solidified it."
As the Portland Police Mounted Patrol Unit's former full-time trainer, Mack had handpicked each horse. "They're like kids. You find them when they're young."
Twenty horses came and went from when she was hired in 1998 to 2017, she reflected. "I still remember them all. I can remember what they looked like. I remember what we fed them, and what size shoes they wore."
The Mounted Patrol unit worked in Portland through the 1940s, then was disbanded. In 1979, a sergeant and two officers got the unit up and running again, before it was again disbanded just last year.
When the unit finally was cut from the budget, Mack said the whole team was devastated. "It was an overwhelming feeling of 'is this really happening?' We'd been thrown on the chopping block for years, and then this time it was real."
Even though she has friends living in the city, Mack remarked that she remembers her years here with the horses so vividly that she can't bear to visit Portland anymore. "Honestly, I''s sad for me to go there. I mean, I look around every corner and remember when a horse was walking there."
And she still wonders, she said, why the unit was disbanded yet again. "It's pretty hazy to me as to why, after twenty years of blood, sweat, and tears. I was told it was a budget issue, when it didn't appear to be a budget issue."
She said they were told the mounted patrol would be replaced by community service officers, but she never saw that happen. "There's all this talk about 'community policing'. Well, you cut the best community policing tool you ever had."
When Zeus was new and out on the street, she recalled, he always noodled his head into people's conversations, as if he had a story to tell. And then there were his adventures at Union Station, when he would follow people getting on the train and sniff their luggage as it rolled behind them.
"Everybody just laughed because he was this giant horse … and he just wanted to know what was in your luggage. You know, like 'what kind of socks are you wearing?' But that was all before the band broke up."
During the final years, Mack saw the unit slowly cut from seven officers to five, then from five to three, who then weren't allowed to work crowd control. "They kind of whittled away at us." And once they had so few officers, she said, they became "a victim of circumstance."Saying goodbye was hard. "The first one to leave and the last one were the hardest," Mack conceded. After Red left first, it was a slow unravel of calling the horses' original owners and sending them to their new homes.
When they drove Diesel to Kathryn Kleinwatcher, Mack said it seemed like just yesterday that they'd first picked him up. Mack met Kleinwatcher outside where she was crying and saying "this shouldn't be happening," but simultaneously feeling happy to have him back home.
And then the last horse, Monty, left. Every stall finally was vacant.
"After Monty left, it was weird," Mack reflected. "It was empty." Even if she never gets her position back, she hopes the unit will re-form and that the horses will stay in the public's hearts. She said they aided many issues and bridged the gap between the people and the police.
Major: Part of the legacy
"I've got the last memory," Larry Kanzler smiled, as he looked proudly to his horse, Major, who was grazing in his pen.
Cheryl Kanzler, his wife, said with almost 99 acres to roam, three horse pals and weekly spa days, Major is content in retirement. "If he could talk, he'd say it's a good life," she commented. "He'd probably tell you 'they don't work me enough. I'm getting a little out of shape. I'm getting a little overweight.' But that'll come. We're going to take him camping."
In 1979, when Larry Kanzler was a Portland Police sergeant, he was the one who restarted the Mounted Patrol unit, after it had been inactive for almost 25 years. Now, he and Major are retired, but are still partners at the Kanzlers' place in Prineville. Larry Kanzler recalled that Major's most peculiar habit is always trying to get closer to people by nudging them with his head. "He's retired, he needs some love," Cheryl Kanzler remarked; "He's worked the mean streets." The boots Larry wore when he used to ride his patrol horse, Toby, in 1979, still sit by his door like relics.
"We both have had some sleepless nights about them getting rid of the unit," Cheryl Kanzler admitted. "For Larry, particularly, because it was always near and dear to his heart." But she looks at the situation optimistically and believes the horses may still come back one day. Cheryl herself also served in the Portland Police Bureau – as a homicide detective. She remembers watching how effective the horses were when controlling crowds. "It was like the parting of the seas. I would love to see it come back."Larry agreed that, when he was in the unit, the horses "brought the police department back into the community." When officers sit in their cars, he thinks, there's a disconnect. "The City of Portland deserves to have a safe environment to live in, and horses can be an integral part of that package. I don't think the people on the Bureau have any idea what the capability of those horses is." Cheryl added that it really isn't about the city having a budget for the unit, but about truly wanting it back. "If they really wanted to, they would find the money in a heartbeat."
History of the mounted patrol unitThe City Council considered cutting Portland Police Bureau's Mounted Patrol Unit several times during the past five years. Structural problems with its home at Centennial Mills hastened its demise.
As reporter Jim Redden observed in a 2014 Tribune 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.
However, 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 the chopping block.
The Mounted 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, it was under our current Mayor Ted Wheeler's watch that the end of the unit finally came about.
The Mounted Patrol unit was disbanded in August 2017 after four decades of full-time service. And Portland became just a little bit less Portland.