The unit disbanded on June 30 after Portland City Council cut funding for the mounted patrol in the upcoming year. Mayor Ted Wheeler said he felt officers could better serve the city by patrolling in other ways.
Officers disagree, saying the mounted unit was one of the best ways for officers to connect with the surrounding community.
“You can have somebody that is in severe crisis, and they’ll see those horses, and they’ll be willing to approach,” said Captain Larry Graham. “A community will see a horse and come from across the street to say hi, and the kids’ eyes will light up.”
The patrol originally formed in 1875 before serving in its current, full-time form in the 1970s. Since then, the unit could be seen patrolling downtown Portland, 10 hours a day, four days a week. Besides their patrol, they marched in parades and provided crowd control during large public gatherings.
Rabbi Arthur Zuckerman served as the units chaplain before retiring. “Being the first rabbi to be a chaplain for the bureau was an honor. Being at the mounted unit was a double honor,” Rabbi Zuckerman said. “I would bring carrots every time I came in [the stables]. They always knew when the Jewish guy was in the building, and every one [of the horses] would put their head through and go ‘uh-oh, the rabbi’s here.”
Officers assigned to the mounted patrol will be reassigned, and the horses will be rehomed. Most of the horses are going back to their original owners. Olin, one of the oldest, will become a therapy horse for children with special needs.
Sworn officers received a sword commemorating their time with the Mounted Patrol Unit, while non-sworn members received a plaque. After the ceremony, the horses and their officers gathered on a nearby hill to say a final goodbye to the public.