History of the Mounted Patrol
Years ago, the Madison Police Department had an informal Mounted Patrol. This unit stemmed from a primarily "grass roots" effort of several officers who owned horses and recognized the value a Mounted Patrol unit could have for the City of Madison. These first officers bore all of the expenses of the horses and equipment. The unit was eventually discontinued due to budgetary issues.
For many years, MPD has utilized mounted patrol officers from outside jurisdictions to help with the Halloween event on State Street. These officers have been invaluable in addressing the large crowds and resolving potential problems. Through the use of horses, the mounted officers are able to move and break up crowds in a much more efficient and less confrontational manner than officers on foot. It would require at least ten officers on foot to move the same crowd that two mounted officers could move. Mounted officers are able to more easily see over crowds to detect conflicts that are developing and are able to address those conflicts before they turn into larger physical confrontations. Horses are very useful in protecting officers making an arrest in a crowd and helping escort the arrested person or rescue vehicles through the crowd.
The Department had come to recognize the value of using horses for many different functions. The horses' performance at Halloween on State Street was the primary example of a mounted patrol's ability to effectively interact with crowds. In 2007, Madison Police started the Mounted Patrol Unit up again with three riders. Unit members attended training designed to teach horse and rider how to "do the job." It included everything from how to contact and control suspects from horseback to teaching our horses to tolerate the urban environment. In 2008, MPD added another officer to assist in covering shifts and assignments. Currently, MPD has four members (two full-time and two-part time).
Recognizing the potential cost of a Mounted Patrol program and the City's limited budget, supporters of the Mounted Patrol Unit formed Friends of Madison Mounted Horse Patrol, a non-profit group to fundraise in support of the MPD Mounted Unit. Funds donated to Friends of Madison Mounted Horse Patrol will cover the costs of horses, their care, equipment and training. An effective MPD Mounted Unit provides a great service to the department and to the citizens of Madison.