By Callaghan Basil and Halle Ames
Uploaded by Callaghan Basil on 2019-05-06.
The Oxford Mounted Unit has become a meaningful and resourceful tool that the of the Oxford Police Department utilizes for busy weekends on the Square and other events in downtown.
David Sage is the manager of Rafters on the Square and President of Friends of the Mounted Unit, which is the nonprofit organization that helps support the overall care of the horses on duty. Sage said he has respect for each officer because they put in a lot of work that no one gets paid for. Sage identifies the Oxford Mounted Unit as the integral enforcer of crowded weekends downtown.
“I’ve seen that mounted patrol go down the street and move thousands of people at one time, and no one gets hurt, pepper sprayed, or taken to jail,” Sage said. “The horses just do their job. It’s fantastic to watch them move that crowd the way they do.”
Sage said he is very pro-law enforcement and wants everyone to remain safe on the Square.
“I had two kids that went to Ole Miss so I look at everyone on the square like they’re my kids,” Sage said. Those horses help ensure that safety.”
Officer Matthew Kinne said that working with the mounted unit is something unique because he gets to do more than sit in a police car. He can interact with a live animal and use it as a transportation tool.
“I get the best of both worlds,” Kinne said. “I get to come to work and be a police officer, and I get to come to work and ride a horse. It makes it fun.”
Kinne said that the mounted unit is very important to the City of Oxford because the horses are a larger force than officers alone. Kinne said that a trained horse and ride are said to equal 10 officers on the street.
“When you line up six horses it’s like having 60 men in a line trying to move a large crowd from one place to another,” Kinne said. “When you have people gathering for entertainment purposes, good and bad things will happen, and we respond accordingly. Whether people are being unruly or cooperative, it’s effective.”
With the use of an animal, Kinne said he notices the public responds to the police better. Kinne said that people seem more comfortable coming up to officers on horseback because they have something in common – they both enjoy horses.
“People like to get to pet the horses,” Kinne said. “When we become more approachable, we are more of a community service or community relations aspect of the police department.”
Officer David Misenhelter is in charge of the nonprofit organization and the officers within the mounted unit. Misenhelter said the horses really help create good community relations with people on the Square.
“The horses get a lot of attention. When we put horses on the street, they are petted over 100 times per shift,” Misenhelter said.
Although the mounted unit is a part of the Oxford Police Department, the city does not pay for all the expenses associated with the horses. Friends of the Mounted Unit was created to help fund items that are not paid for by the city.
“The city funds our basic maintenance expenses like feed, horseshoes, hay, stabling, and shavings, but when it comes to extra items or equipment, like trailers or saddles, or anything needed around the barn, we use the nonprofit organization to help fund those needs,” Misenhelter said.