Excuse me, but this post is a bit of a rant, so feel free to skip over.
On Thursday last week, a police officer on a horse was struck by a car. The horse, named Brigadier, was injured in this bizarre hit-and-run. The officer was thrown from the horse, suffered broken ribs, and injuries to his neck, back and leg. Police later had to shoot Brigadier because of the injuries sustained. And for the last few days the Toronto Star has published numerous articles waxing poetic about how Brigadier was killed “in the line of duty.” I can only imagine what the Toronto Sun has been writing.
While it is certainly sad to see a horse and police officer injured is such a way, what seems to be missing from any of this discussion is why the hell Toronto police are still using horses. Along with Brigadier and the officer, three other mounted officers were patrolling the Kingston and Lawrence area as part of a new project to reduce drugs and gun crime in the area. I’m certainly not a community policing expert, but I do not think this is an effective way to patrol a neighbourhood. I recognize the police think being up high helps them view the area around them better, intimidate people, and give them a position of power. But you can’t deal with people one-on-one or chase criminals through alleys and between houses on horse. Second, you are putting the horse in harm’s way. As seen at the Queen’s Park riot in 2000, horses can be extremely volatile (I think a handful of protesters and the police are equally to blame for the violence that day). As an eye witness to the event, I saw police storm into the crowd on horse which caused wide-spread panic. Protesters were swinging their signs at oncoming cops/horses, because no matter how much you might love animals you do not want to be stepped on by a 2,000-plus pound angry horse. While I remember cops in riot gear wielding batons, the thing that sticks with me the most from that day was the stench of horse shit.
Which leads me to my last point. Police horses crap with impunity in this city. We have by-laws that tell us to poop and scoop after our dogs do their business in parks. It is a public health issue, we are told. So why is it okay for the Toronto’s finest equine to let loose on our roads? In New York City, horses in Central Park wear diapers. Same goes for horses used in London, England. There have been many a time, while riding my bike, when I have had to swerve to avoid a freshly deposited stool causing me to swing unnecessarily into traffic (mounted police like to ride in bike lanes). In mid-October at Queen and Lansdowne, I watched a man on a bike swerve at the last minute to avoid a pile of dung, fall off, cut his head open, only to have a truck suddenly stop, luckily, less than two feet away from him.
One reader in the Star article said, “You’d have a lot of people on the bandwagon if there was a petition pushing for greater consequences [for people who harm horses]. That was an innocent animal … it’s disgusting,” They’re right. If anyone wants to start a petition to convince the Toronto Police Services to stop using horses, Spacing will help publicize it. You can start an online petition by going here. Police have to take repsonsibility for putting horses in dangerous situations. If I took a child for a walk on the road and the kid was hit by a car, there’s no doub that I’d be vilified.
I believe cops on horses are antiquated and no longer serve any real good purpose. Get off your high horse and walk around the community! Put those cops on bikes — you don’t need to groom or feed bikes. Better yet, you don’t have to shoot them when its damaged in “the line of duty” — you can just order new parts.