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City wrong to mandate voluntary unit

City Council’s action Tuesday night to require the Boulder City Police Department to maintain a mounted unit is wrong.

Please don’t misunderstand. I am 100 percent in favor of the city having the mounted unit and its accompanying posse. I think they are a great addition to our city’s police force and provide an invaluable service to our community.

But, the mounted unit is voluntary and there is no reason to mandate its existence into city code.

I believe the intention of the ordinance passed was honorable — to recognize the achievements of the unit and the contribution it makes to the community.

In fact, that is exactly what Mayor Kiernan McManus said was his idea behind having the ordinance drafted.

“By making a voluntary Mounted Patrol Unit part of the city code I intend to recognize the need our community has for such a unit and the part the patrol plays in making this a special community with unique requirements,” he said.

However, this could also have been accomplished by issuing a proclamation or awarding certificates of achievement.

Even Tim Shea, the chief of police, has concerns about this action. In his memo to council members included in the agenda packet, Shea wrote that there are a number of requirements that must be met in order for the mounted unit to exist. “If just one of them are missing, there cannot be a unit.”

“I believe while support/acknowledgement is the intention, this effort may paint the police department, and especially the police chief, into a corner where that mandate cannot be realized, thus putting me at odds with the code and not meeting a basic duty,” he wrote.

City Manager Al Noyola also expressed some concerns about “codifying something that may not be enforceable.” He said the department has other volunteer units, including the Explorers post, none of which were created or mandated by city code.

Boulder City is fortunate that it has several police officers who are so committed to the unit that they volunteer their time, along with the use of their horses.

I love horses and look forward to visiting with the officers and my equine friends whenever I can.

But, having had as many as seven horses in my backyard at one time, I also know how big a commitment it is to own them. When you have horses, they become one of your top priorities.

Not only do the horses need daily care and feeding, their stalls must be cleaned regularly and the stables maintained.

When you add in the training it takes so that a horse can be ridden and respond to your commands, you have already invested months or years into each animal. Then, there is additional training needed to “condition” it not to react when faced with an unfamiliar situation or noise.

By nature, horses have a “fight or flight” response to stressful situations, which could be something as simple as a plastic grocery bag floating on the wind nearby. My husband said they are like giant bunnies; they will run away from the situation so that they are far enough away to properly assess the situation.

Can you imagine how scary it could be facing a boisterous crowd of thousands that at any one of our city events attracts?

I also believe that now that the city made this a permanent unit, then it needs to pay for some of the expenses involved. The horses are no different than its other four-legged officers, its K-9s.

Currently, Boulder City Police Department pays for the dogs’ veterinary bills, although their food is donated.

Also consider that Metropolitan Police Department in Las Vegas disbanded its mounted unit in April as a pre-emptive cost-saving measure as it prepares to face a severe budget shortfall in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The eight-horse unit was funded to pay for four full-time officers, three part-time staffers and a sergeant.

I sincerely hope that this action doesn’t backfire and result in the demise of the mounted unit. If that were to happen, surely Boulder City and its residents would suffer.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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