Mounted police officers patrol a designated area on horseback, enforcing laws and providing crowd control to maintain public safety.Duties
The most visible duties of a mounted police officer are conducting patrols on horseback and providing crowd control. Mounted officers are very effective at crowd control; it is commonly said in the industry that a mounted officer is comparable to ten or more officers on foot for crowd control purposes. Mounted officers may also be involved with search and rescue operations, traffic control, and pursuit of suspects.
Mounted police officers can use their horse to facilitate interaction with those members of the public who would not normally interact with law enforcement personnel. Mounted officers have a high profile in the community. As part of their community service activities officers may visit schools or community groups, participate in parades, or provide an escort for police funerals.
Some officers also compete in nationally recognized mounted police competitions, such as the North American Police Equestrian Championships, or other local and state based competitive events.
While police stables generally have full time grooms on staff, the officers generally take pride in grooming and feeding their mounts as time permits. Officers may also be responsible for trailering their horses to patrol areas that are not close to the stables.
Officers frequently work nights and weekends, and must be ready to respond to emergency situations with little or no notice. Mounted units work outdoors in varying weather conditions that can include extreme heat, extreme cold, high winds, and heavy rain.Career Options
Perhaps the most famous mounted police unit in the world is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police force (RCMP), known for their scarlet coated riders and jet black horses.
In the U.S., mounted police officers are able to find work in most states and many large cities. Opportunities for employment exist with police departments, the military, and the U.S. Parks Service. Patrol areas may include cities, parks, and rugged terrain not easiy accessible on foot or by car.Education and Training
The first step in becoming a mounted officer is qualifying as a regular police officer. This generally involves six months of police academy training before moving on to a probationary period as a new officer. After about 3 years an officer can apply for a specialty unit such as the mounted police, provided a position is available.
Training for the mounted unit can last anywhere from three to six months. Officers generally take regular riding lessons as well as attend training clinics put on by top instructors. Mounted police specialty training can include courses in equitation, horsemanship, equine behavior, equine anatomy and physiology, advanced crowd control techniques, and search and rescue training.
The U.S. Park Police Horse Mounted Unit in Washington D.C. offers a well respected training program, consisting of over 400 hours of intensive instruction. U.S Park Police instructors often travel to provide their extensive training program to other police departments across the country, and they also provide training at police seminars and related events. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also travel the U.S. providing similar training courses; the RCMP is perhaps the most recognized mounted unit in the world.
A variety of equine breeds are used for police work, but the most prevalent breeds in police service are draft horses, Quarter Horses, and Thoroughbreds. Police horses are almost always geldings (castrated males). Horses go through an intensive training process to desensitize them to a wide variety of sights and sounds that they may encounter while on patrol.Salary
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not separate out mounted police officer earnings in its police salary data, it does provide comprehensive information on general police officer earnings. According to the BLS, the median salary for police officers was $53,540 in their 2010 salary survery. The earnings ranged from less than $31,700 for officers in the lowest 10 percent to more than $83,510 for those in the highest 10 percent.
The states with the highest mean wage for police officers are New Jersey ($79,300), California ($77,290), and the District of Columbia ($67,560).Job Outlook
Job opportunities for police officers are expected to grow at the average rate for all occupations, about ten percent, from 2008 to 2018.
Competition for jobs working with mounted units is expected to continue to be keen, as only a limited number of opportunities are offered in this specialty area of police service. There are generally many more applicants for mounted police units than there are open positions.