LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) – Lancaster City’s lack of police officers has led to the demise of its Mounted Unit.
Officials say the city is 34 officers short of its intended number.
“We need to fill as many positions as we can so that the public doesn’t feel the effect of what the police department is feeling right now,” Sgt. Todd Grager of Lancaster City Police said.
The three mounted officers will head back to patrolling the streets in police vehicles. The horses will move on, too.
“The next step is we are getting them re-homed to spots that are going to take care of them and can hopefully be their forever homes,” Ben Detwiler, one of the mounted officers, said.
Some of the horses may continue to do the same work.
“Two of them are probably going to be going to another mounted unit,” Detwiler said.
Some say the Unit was a way to connect officers with the community.
“As we enter kind of a time of high tension, a horse gives a way for the public to interact with a police officer that is not about being on the negative end of that,” Kate Hopkins from Lititz said.
After a recruiting event in October, Sgt. Grager says interest is increasing for potential future officers.
“Since the opening of the application we’ve received 56 applications. So I would say for a couple days that’s pretty good,” Sgt. Grager said.
Applications opened at the beginning of November.
The only issue being those who are interested in becoming an officer have to wait until March 2nd to take a test to get accepted.
Even if a large number of new hires are brought in by the bureau, it takes time to be street patrol-ready.
“When an officer starts with the department it takes as long as a year and a half until they are actually able to be counted as an officer on the street,” Sgt. Grager said. “This is not an easy, fast fix.”
The Mounted Unit made its presence downtown and at big events making it easier to spot things an officer on foot could not. So losing the unit could have consequences.
“Removing a 44-year-old institution might have bigger repercussions than they are prepared for,” Hopkins said.