INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – For more than 30 years, a specialized group of police officers has been patrolling the city of Indianapolis on horseback. They are members of the IMPD Mounted Patrol.
“They call us the 10-foot cop,” said Sgt. Allan Whitesell with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s horse squad. “We’re up high, we can see into the crowd, see longer distances to give updates.”
The officers and their equine partners spend hundreds of hours each year downtown and at large events across the area, including the Indiana State Fair and the Indianapolis 500.
“To have the horses show up, it really is kind of a calming, positive, welcoming experience,” said Turner Woodard, president of the IMPD Mounted Horse Patrol Association. “Not a lot of lights flashing or going around.”
The IMPD Mounted Patrol was founded in 1983. Today, the unit operates as a partnership between the IMPD and the nonprofit IMPD Mounted Horse Patrol Association. The unit serves as both a crime-prevention tool and a community outreach platform for the department.
“We can be standing on the corner with three other police officers in cars, on bicycles, motorcycles. People bypass them to come and talk to us. We are the approachable police,” Whitesell said.
This summer hasn’t been easy for the unit or the association after the unexpected deaths of two horses due to age related issues. Finding new horses is no easy task.
“It takes a special horse to be a police horse,” Whitesell said. “We go through five or six trials before we find one. These horses need to be able to walk, trot and cantor, as well as some of the lateral movements we use. They also have to be docile but also have the mindset that they can handle the stresses of downtown, the stresses of a big crowd.”
The association is now working to raise funds to build a new permanent home for the officers and horses after spending years in various makeshift locations. They hope to use the new facility to better connect city residents with the mounted patrol.
“I would love to have regular field trips out here, with IPS (Indianapolis Public Schools) and the other school systems, to get out here and have a positive, enjoyable experience with animals and law enforcement,” said Chris Golightly, executive director of the IMPD Mounted Horse Association. “To have this facility would just be fantastic, a dream come true.”
Links to support the mounted patrol
The IMPD Mounted Horse Patrol is hosting a benefit polo event beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24. The event will be held at the Hickory Hall Polo Club north of Whitestown. Admission is $20 per car. A flyer about Polo at Sunset offers more details.
The IMPD Mounted Horse Patrol always welcomes monetary and supply donations.