©1999 - 2012
Edward D. Reuss
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U. S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer is acutely aware of the security needs that prevail at the United States Capitol and surrounding areas.  Constantly on top of pertinent issues and concerns that are relevant in current times, he continually strives to not only enhance plans and procedures already in place but he efficaciously develops and implements improvements when necessary.

Approximately fourteen months ago, Chief Gainer wisely created, within his department, a mounted unit comprised of six horses and officers. He realized this unit would serve an important function and could deal with a diversity of issues ranging from crowd control to terrorism threats among other things.  The horses could travel to areas inaccessible to people and vehicles.

Amidst many security physical security barriers in place coupled with heavily armed officers highly visible around the Capitol, not only did the horse-mounted unit serve a purposeful function but it also provided a degree of equanimity to tourists and others who visited the Capitol and surrounding area.  Gainer commented, “I like to think what a nice juxtaposition it has been for our visitors to see a man and a woman up on a horse.  Doesn’t it present a calmer image? And we needed that.”

Now, however, what Gainer and his department needs on Capitol Hill is not what he is going to get because the U. S. Congress has killed the unit.  Due to their explanation of a large federal debt, influential members of Congress contended the horses are too expensive to feed and, consequently, they would not provide Gainer the requested budget to retain the unit.

The U. S. Capitol Police force and the nation’s Capitol have been dealt a hard blow. Allowing the unit to have been established in the first place, Congress should have continued it’s funding rather than dismantling it in its still newly wed time frame.  It is apparent that members of Congress lack a critical understanding concerning the benefits of a horse-mounted unit and are unable to recognize the salient law enforcement issues that present themselves in the nation’s Capitol.

What is even more disconcerting is the fact that the officers who have bonded with their horses and have developed a productive working relationship now have to relinquish their horses to another department—United States Park Police—and they have sixty days within which to bid their equestrian partners farewell.  The parting of ways for the officers as well as the horses will not be a happy moment for Chief Gainer or his unit.

In a day and age where police departments, nationwide, need all the congressional support they can get, it is disconcerting to recognize that some members of Congress don’t have their priorities straight and their vision focused.  The disloyalty to this unit demonstrated by the U. S. Congress and their facile dismissal of it speaks volumes to a misdirected orientation by the representative leaders of this nation.

***Karen L. Bune is employed as a Victim Specialist/Legal Assistant in the State’s Attorney’s Office for Prince George’s County, Maryland.  She is an Adjunct Professor in the Dept. of Criminal Justice at George Mason University where she teaches victimology. She is also a nationally recognized speaker and consultant on victim issues. She can be reached at Kbune@gmu.edu





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