Protecting the Horse Mounted Unit

By Denelle Fedor

The San Jose Mounted Unit is an integral component of the San Jose Police Department.

The unit was created in 1986 by Police Chief Joe McNamara, who came from the biggest city in the United States; New York City. Chief McNamara served 15 years as San Jose’s Police Chief. He is currently a research fellow at the Hoover Institute, has authored numerous books on policing and is regarded and recognized nationally as an expert in criminal justice, police technology and management systems, crime prevention, and international drug policies.

With Chief McNamara’s experience in working in a big city, not a small town, he understood the importance that a horse patrol would bring to San Jose. As a result, he created a task force of private citizens to help establish the unit. This group raised $70,000 to help pay the costs, making the unit one of, if not, the first public-private partnerships in
San Jose.

Although every Police Chief since McNamara has supported horse patrol, city management proposed eliminating police officers on horseback this year by stating the city could save $1.4 million if the unit was cut. However, management’s million dollar number was misleading. The actual cost of the unit is approximately $230, 000. The1.4 million is the compensation for the eight officers who patrol on horseback. Therefore, the only way management could save 1.4 million is if they eliminated police positions, which has nothing to do with mounted unit. They should have stated they were eliminating police positions instead of using the mounted unit as a ploy.

Mayor Chuck Reed kept his commitment to public safety and specifically to horse patrol by directing management to enter into an agreement with the Friends of the San Jose Mounted Unit who agreed to pay the cost of the unit for the 2010-2011 budget year, making the unit a cost-effective public-private partnership.

As a result, the Friends of the San Jose Mounted Unit will be embarking on a campaign called “Pony Up, San Jose” which will officially launch in August 2009. With a million people in San Jose, all we need is $1 from two hundred and thirty thousand of them. Spread the word and send your dollars to Friends of the San Jose Mounted Unit PO Box 7408 San Jose, CA 95150-6511 or visit our website.

In my opinion, San Jose has moved away from community policing since McNamara’s retirement. However, under Chief Davis, San Jose is trying to bring it back. The new Captain for the Downtown nightlife served as a mounted unit officer. Perhaps the unit will be utilized more in the Downtown. We can only hope.

When you have former Vice Mayors Cindy Chavez and Pat Dando along with Tom Martin, General Manager for Santana Row, Scott Knies, President of the Downtown Association, and thousands of business owners and residents in San Jose who support the mounted unit, then perhaps these voices should serve as testament that the Mounted Unit is important and should remain intact.

Denelle Fedor is President & Founder of the non-profit Friends of the San Jose Mounted Unit (www.sjmu.org). She has worked for Councilmembers Pat Dando and Ken Yeager and currently serves as Chief of Staff to Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio.