QCOSTARICA – The Policia Montada (Mounted Police), until now limited to caring for parks and participation in Topes (horse parades) and mass events, will be patrolling cities, beaches and areas of difficult terrain, as part of a modernization of the police unit.
Six months ago, mounted police have appeared in the heart of cities like Liberia, Guanacaste and occasionally to protecting tourists on Guanacaste beaches.
Luis Hernandez Gonzalez, is the new chief of the Policia Montada and his strategy is make more use of man and beast, especially in places with hard access for vehicles and where foot patrols would take hours.
In areas like the indigenous reserve of Saltire in Buenos Aires de Puntarenas, an area consisting of 12,700 acres, the Policia Montada has been effective to avoid clashes over land between the indigenous and farmers.
“There, the horse is essential because of a lot of land and it would take hours for foot patrols to cover it,” said Hernedez.
Another success story for the Policia Montada is the tracking and search for evidence in the murder of a family in Santa Maria de Dota last May. The work of the Policia Montada was in conjunction if with officials of the Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ).
However, the Policia Montada, as with the rest of the national police force (Fuerza Publica), is facing a crisis of resources.
Created in 1990, the Policia Montada, has kept a low profile, focusing mainly on protecting the Parque Metropolitana La Sabana and La Paz park in Desamparados.
The unit had 90 animals. Although there are 72 remaining, not all are in service: some of the mares are pregnant, others are too young or have yet to complete their training. Currently 67 officials and 7 administrators are assigned to the police unit.
Hernandez sees the role of the Policia Montada similar to officers on bicycles or motorcycles. “It (man and horse) has its advantages, not the same as a foot patrol, it is much more visible,” says Hernadez.
The police chief says they are down to the last details for implementation of the mounted police patrols of the streets of San Jose and other cities.
Hernandez says that in the end the same police action is the same: chasing a suspect, using the horse in a way that the suspect and the horse doesn’t get hurt in the chase. In other countries the horse has been very effective.
The police chief added that the presence of the Policia Montada in soccer games to avoid clashes between the “barras” (gangs) has been successful.
“We have had good resutls. The horse creates a lot of presence and respect. Thus, the gangs members are learning … the problem is that they have attacked some of the animals, with stones to the head and legs. To avoid that, we are looking to purchase protection for them (the horses), to be used when there is violence,” said Hernandez.
Hernandez stressed that they have not had any complaints of people being hit by any of the animals.