KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Police Chief Rick Smith says he made a difficult decision to disband the mounted patrol unit to shift more officers to fighting violent crime.
"This is not anti-mounted patrol, this is anti-homicide," said Nathan Garrett, police board president.
Cops on horseback received the news Tuesday morning from Smith himself. Their specialized unit is shutting down. Smith says the eight officers are needed elsewhere.
"I'm well aware this decision to reallocate resources is going to cause some backlash," Garrett said.
A public outcry spared the mounted patrol from being cut earlier this year.
Supporters called cops on horseback good ambassadors for the department and effective at crowd control in large settings.
But with Kansas City's homicides happening at a near record-setting pace, mounted patrol became a luxury the chief says the city can no longer afford.
"We will be at a number that no one here wants to talk about or wants to realize, but people are dying in our streets," Smith told police commissioners. "Our clearance rate is not even at the national average this year."
Kansas City has had 130 homicides so far this year, and police say a consultant has recommended that the department add eight additional detectives to the homicide squads.
At a time when police say they already are short 42 officers for patrol duties, Smith says disbanding the horseback unit puts eight officers back on the streets and allows for eight others to become homicide detectives.
"Violent crime generally and homicides specifically are the priority of this police department," Garrett said.
It's hoped that the shift in resources will help police get a better handle on solving violent crimes.
Smith says he's optimistic that the mounted patrol can be brought back through a regional approach, working with neighboring law enforcement agencies.
Councilwoman Heather Hall says the city council will consider funding 30 more police officers in the next budget.