MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For more than 80 years, Miami Police officers from the Mounted Patrol Unit have been hoofing it through Miami neighborhoods.
This equestrian side of community policing patrols areas from Little Haiti to Coconut Grove.
The unit, which dates back to 1937, is made up of seven officers and 11 horses.
Sgt. Eric Marti is the supervisor. His partner is a horse named Sunny.
“He’s my favorite, from the minute I rode him as a rookie officer I fell in love with this horse. He’s got a great personality.”
Each day the officers gear up, prepare the horses tack (saddle and riding gear) and depart by trailer to their “beat” neighborhood assigned. Some of the team duties include traffic control, connecting with business owners and assisting in safe control of large crowds. They are highly trained and quite visible out in the community.
“People love to approach an officer on a horseback and ask them about their job. They ask them about the horse, and everything. The horse is an invaluable tool in the sense that people come up to you on the street and the horse removes the barriers that are generally there,” said Marti.
Each of the 11 horses were donated to the city, at no cost to the department. Some were rescued and, as Marti explains, each of them are unique in their personalities.
“Some are spunky, some are calm, and some are clowns. He’s definitely a clown (referring to Sunny.) And some are more fearful; some confident. You learn their strengths and weaknesses.”
In Little Havana, like any residents or visitors, they tend to partake of the local cuisine.
“Something you will see quite often are our horses in Calle Ocho eating a whole pan Cubano,” Marti chuckles.
For an officer to apply to this unit, they must be able to saddle, tack, and mount a 16-hand horse without assistance. They don’t need prior riding experience for the rigorous training.
Officer Alberto Tejeda explains.
“It’s mainly riding for six weeks. They get you ready for riding in the street, and then after that you are put with a senior officer to see how you are with the horse, if you need more training, for example.”
It’s a great for officers who like being outdoors and don’t mind the extra attention, like Tejeda.
“I like interacting with people in the streets and there’s no better way than doing it in with the horse.”