ATLANTA — A mounted police unit in metro Atlanta has been disbanded, but the loss of those police horses will result in a larger force in Savannah.
Savannah-Chatham metro police say the four horses once used in Forsyth County, just northeast of Atlanta, are being donated to the Savannah department. The metro Atlanta agency discontinued its mounted patrol earlier this year.
Several law enforcement agencies nationwide have eliminated their mounted units in recent years as a result of budget cuts, but several cities, including Atlanta, still have such units.
In Savannah, crowd control is among the uses for the horses in a city that hosts several large events each year.
“Savannah has a much greater need for the mounted police,” said Major Rick Doyle of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department. “We felt it was a good fit and definitely they would be worked at the level they were capable of.”
Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper had promised during his campaign to eliminate the mounted unit.
It had cost around $250,000 to $300,000 annually for the sheriff’s office to maintain its horses and staff the unit, Doyle said. But the animals were only used a few days each year, sometimes to patrol parks along the shores of Lake Lanier. The sheriff’s office will use bikes and ATVs to do some of those types of patrols, he said.
The donation brings the number of horses in the Savannah-Chatham department to nine, police there said. It also prompted the hiring of another officer for the unit, bringing that number to six.
“Mounted officers have a commanding presence in specific instances that are invaluable to police work and they have a calming effect in others,” Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Chief Willie Lovett said in a statement.
“We have grown to appreciate their abilities in huge crowds, such as the St. Patrick’s Day Festival,” Lovett said. “And their patrol in neighborhoods is never overlooked by the residents there. Everyone is fully aware their neighborhood is being patrolled when the officer is on horseback.”