- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Security spending needs to mirror security concerns, and at a time when that concern is great, Congress has decided to trim some funding from the Capitol Police budget. The most irrational aspect of this decision is that it is not the trim of something that should be trimmed — bureaucratic overlap, for instance — but the removal of a valuable asset of the force that protects the Capitol Building and its environs: the equine unit.

In the 2006 budget, the House and Senate appropriations committees found an additional $8 million in funding for the Capitol Police (bringing the total budget to $249.5 million), but could not accommodate the additional, comparatively paltry sum of $145,000 to continue the Capitol Police Mounted Unit. Last year, the House Appropriations Committee had struck the equine unit’s funding from the budget, but the six-horse patrol was revived in the Senate appropriations bill, which provided the requisite $114,000. There was no such respite this year from the Senate.

After over two months of training and 14 months of service, the news arrived that, in accordance with the appropriations bill that President Bush signed into law on Aug. 2, the small, 1-year-old Capitol Police equine unit must disband and donate their horses and equipment to the much larger, 71-year-old U.S. Park Police equine unit.

The Park Police, which uses mounted police to control large crowds, says that one mounted officer in a crowd has the value of 15 to 20 officers on foot. From their commanding perspective, the mounted officers have a better perspective of the situation and are better positioned to direct and control the crowds. This function has many practical applications for the Capitol Police, particularly in facilitating an evacuation of the Capitol or the capital.

During the last 14 months, the Capitol Police Mounted Unit provided 7,000 hours of vigilant service, using their tactical advantage to do everything from helping to locate lost children to reporting suspicious packages, all the while maintaining a calm yet comforting image of security. Congress has made a serious mistake in depleting their security force.

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