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Philly Police Trying To Revive Mounted Unit

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Police Department on Thursday announced a $2 million fundraising campaign to revive its mounted patrol unit, which was shelved six years ago amid funding problems.

Commissioner Charles Ramsey said the department hopes to have a small unit of about 20 donated horses resuming operations around this time next year. Philadelphia’s mounted unit, which dated back to 19th century, had to be disbanded in 2004 as part of budget cuts.

Police said they have a $100,000 state grant and more than $40,000 in donations from Comcast Corp., 7-Eleven and Verizon so far, but need to raise more money. The department expects that the horses will be donated, officials said at a news conference Thursday.

Officials expect to need $1.2 million in donations for the first year, and $800,000 by the second year to help support a unit that would include 20 horses. The department hopes the city would be able to fund the unit after that.

Since taking over as Philadelphia’s police commissioner in 2008, Ramsey — the former head of police in Washington, D.C. — has talked often about the importance of reviving the department’s mounted patrol.

Officers on mounted patrol can be helpful in getting to places where cars can’t go and are especially useful during parades and demonstrations and in parks, Ramsey said.

But he said officers would also use horses as part of routine community patrols in crime-ridden neighborhoods.

Lt. Dan McCann, who was head of Philadelphia’s mounted unit before it was disbanded, said horses can be critical in improving relationships within the community.

Often, the animals encourage people to interact with officers on horseback, he said.

“I heard one of the guys say ‘Nobody ever came up and pet my police car,”‘ McCann said.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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