It's as old as the Kentucky Derby. For more than 135 years,the Boston Police Mounted Unit patrolled the streets, parks and back alleys of the Hub. But now, the city's budget crunch has brought the end of this celebrated unit.
For one final time, the sound of hooves echoed on City Hall Plaza, as the Boston Police Mounted Unit's horses, officers and civilian workers who cared for them were honored in a farewell ceremony.
"This is a sad day for the city of Boston," said Boston City Council President Mike Ross. "The Boston Police Department's Mounted Unit, which has served this city since 1873, has fallen victim to the recession, and our bleak fiscal situation."
Despite the objections of the Boston City Council, and an online petition that's gathered more than 2,600 signatures, police officials say they just don't have the funds to keep the equestrian unit on the street. The 10 mounted officers will be re-assigned elsewhere in the department. The nine hostlers who look after the horses at the stable in Jamaica Plain will be out of work. Officer Ricky Rabb is coming to grips with the loss of his four-legged partner named Camden.
"I'm depressed. It's leaving my partner. We've developed a bond. And, it's been...it's a great job," Rabb said. "We get to deal with the people a lot, on a daily basis. People from out of town, people asking questions. And we do crowd control when things get ugly, also."
Five of the unit's horses will continue to do crowd control, but they'll be doing it in New York City. Two more will return to their original owners, who loaned the horses to the city. The remaining four will go to a 90-acre farm overseen by the Plymouth County Sheriff. Contract language says the horses will be returned to Boston, should the unit be reconstituted. That's an effort City Council President Mike Ross vows to continue.
"While this is a difficult day, it will not be the last we hear from this unit," Ross said. "I start today, in my quest to bring the mounted unit back to their home in Boston, and I hope that you will join with me."
This program aired on June 25, 2009.