Saturday night as people protesting a rally by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump moved into Main Street against police orders, mounted officers used their horses to drive a wedge into the crowd.
“It was a crowd-control situation that our horses are highly trained in,” Sgt. Kari Thompson, a Kansas City police spokeswoman, wrote Monday in an email.
The size and height of each horse and rider give them an advantage when dealing with a large crowd, according to the Kansas Police Department’s website.
Mounted patrol officers are able to move large crowds with little force. According to the police, each mounted patrol officer is equal to eight to 10 officers on foot.
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On Saturday, a woman struck a police horse’s head. When officers pointed out the woman for arrest, she disappeared into the crowd. Soon after, police used pepper spray to get protesters back on the sidewalk.
The Star on Monday requested an interview for a profile on the mounted patrol, but the department said the horses and officers were in training this week.
Kansas City’s mounted patrol dates to the late 1800s, when Chief Thomas Speers hired an officer to ride a horse around the city, patrolling and serving papers.
When that proved a success, Speers assigned more officers to the mounted patrol. At one point, the department had 45 horses.
By 1929, horses had been phased out of police service. In 2003, the nonprofit Friends of the KC Mounted Patrol, which has its own Facebook page, was formed to raise money for a full-time mounted patrol unit. Mounted officers returned to the department in 2006.
The unit falls under the department’s Special Operations Division and has eight officers, a sergeant and nine horses, according to department’s website. The department has an online page with biographies of the officers and their horses
Besides crowd control, the unit’s duties include crime control and deterrence and community relations. The horses are kept in a stable in Swope Park.
Saturday was not the first time a police horse had been assaulted.
When mounted police officers began helping control crowds in Westport in 2007, someone threw a beer bottle at a horse. The next year, a drunken man in Westport slapped a horse’s face.
In 2010, a woman petting a police horse at 39th Street and Broadway suddenly smacked the horse’s face.
More recently, on St. Patrick’s Day 2014, a man struck a horse in the face with his elbow as he was jumping and waving his arms.