KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A notable presence in the Kansas City Police Department could soon disappear.
The agency is reviewing whether to end its mounted patrol in order to put more officers on the streets. But the horses won't be going anywhere without a fight.
With 2,000 pounds of sheer force each, the horses of the Kansas City Police Department's mounted patrol are certainly impressive.
"You don't think people are going to move when you get a line of these horses coming along?" a volunteer said.
An officer strapped atop the giants has proven an important resource to the department in community building and for crowd control during protests and large events.
"They have a vantage point to see everything that's going on and anybody out there that's thinking of doing criminal activity, so it's a crime deterrent," said AliceLee Hollister, chairwoman of the Friends of KC Mounted Patrol.
The Friends of KC Mounted Patrol helped launch this unit in 2006. Horses are all donated, and the nonprofit has raised more than $450,000 to support the animals and their officers, including new equipment.
But running the mounted patrol isn't cheap. Staff, food and vet bills will cost more than $600,000 this year -- that's 0.27% of the total police budget.
In a city facing a major violent crime problem, KCPD said, in part, it's responsible to "ensure our personnel are best placed for the most efficient and effective services to the citizens of Kansas City."
Those who support the mounted patrol, don't think re-assigning its seven officers to the streets will make a major difference.
"It's something that's festered a long time. I don't know how you approach it. It's a difficult question and difficult solution," Hollister said.
And after 13 years of committing to specialized training and resources, the Friends of KC Mounted Patrol feel ending the unit would be a waste of all those efforts.
"It's a shame," Hollister said.
The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners is set to decide the fate of the mounted patrol at its April 9 meeting. In the meantime, many are writing letters and expressing their support.