From: Miami Herald
By: Alexandra Torrealba
Miami police officer Eduardo Pérez doesn’t patrol the neighborhood in a sleek squad car. He’s not on a motorcycle either. Pérez’s partner against crime is a tobacco-colored horse named Panchito.
Pérez and Panchito, a Morgan, draw stares from locals and tourists alike as they clomp on the streets and sidewalks of Calle Ocho in Little Havana. On a recent patrol, a child stepped forward.
“You can touch his nose. It’s the softest part,” Pérez told the child, who got close enough with his father to have a picture taken.
Pérez and Panchito are part of Miami’s mounted police unit, a patrol of 12 horses, nine officers and a sergeant. They watch over the city’s neighborhoods seven days a week.
The mounted police have “totally changed” Callo Ocho, said Miguel Ramos, who works at Máximo Gómez Domino Park on Southwest 15th Avenue.
In addition to preventing crimes, a single mounted officer can do the work of 10 officers on the ground when it comes to controlling crowds, Pérez said.
Miami’s mounted police unit goes back to 1937, when Sgt. Leroy Shelton initiated the program as an experiment with a few officers to patrol certain areas of Miami. The police department made the unit official a decade later under Police Chief Walter E. Headley after a group of businesses donated horses to the unit.