August 26, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Corporate donation keeps Detroit police mounted unit in the saddle

Emileigh Alley, 7, who has acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), rides Elmo with Detroit Mounted Police Officers John Washington and Carl Gunther, and mother Julie Ozment, in Detroit on Tuesday. The Detroit Police Mounted Section is sponsoring free horse rides to Children's Hospital patients. (David Coates / The Detroit News)

Detroit— Ivan, Baby, Vader, Elmo and #22, the horses that make up Michigan’s only full-time police mounted unit, will continue serving the city for another year and beyond, thanks to a donation from a downtown company.

Strategic Staffing Solutions announced Tuesday it will support the Detroit Police Mounted Section through the end of 2015. The section, which was disbanded in 2005 due to budget cuts, re-opened in 2009 as a privately funded entity. The Detroit Public Safety Foundation was instrumental in resurrecting the unit.

Earlier this year, Strategic Staffing Solutions officials said the donation was $37,500, which will pay for the horses’ hay, feed, medication and other expenses.

The Mounted Section is an ideal way for police to connect with citizens, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said.

“Mounted police aren’t just for crowd control, although that’s an effective tool,” Craig said. “When young people see a mounted officer, that represents a friendly officer. We’re very grateful to the business community for supporting the unit. The mounted unit has a special place for me.”

Detroit’s Mounted Section was established in 1893, making it one of the oldest units in the country. During the 1970s, the unit had five barns, 80 officers and more than 60 horses.

“It’s a very important part of the history of the city,” Strategic Staffing Solutions CEO Cindy Pasky said. “We’ll be back next year.”

The Mounted Section now has five horses and seven officers, said Sgt. Erik Eide, who commands the unit.

“We stay pretty busy,” he said. “We go on patrols every day, and do special events, like the Hart Plaza events, concerts, and things like that.”

On Friday, when more than 100,000 people crammed downtown for the Eminem concert and a Detroit Lions preseason football game, there were four horses deployed.

“An officer on a horse is the most versatile tool a city can have,” Eide said. “You very rarely run across someone who doesn’t like a horse.

“We’re able to do a lot of things other officers can’t do,” Eide said. “I can move a crowd without people getting too mad. It’s less aggressive than an officer in a car or on foot yelling for people to get back.”

In addition to the Strategic Staffing Solutions donation, DTE purchased a new $12,000 trailer to transport the horses, which will replace the 1997 model that was in use.

ghunter@detroitnews.com
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