Community Outreach Spotlight

Mounted Patrol Units

Submitted by Captain Cydney McGhee of the Concord, North Carolina, Police Department, a graduate of FBI National Academy Session 289.

A photo of two mounted officers riding through a parade.

Started in the 18th century to navigate poor roads, mounted patrol units are a timeless symbol in the ever-changing law enforcement landscape. One of the oldest in the nation is the U.S. Park Police Horse Mounted Patrol, established in 1934 with one horse rented from a local stable.

These units have become more commonplace over the years, developing into one of the best tools police departments have. Today, mounted patrol units are used in various ways, from crowd control to community engagement to search and rescue. Additionally, in today’s climate, having that icebreaker between officers and the community are key to successful relations.

In 2018, I approached my chief about having a mounted patrol unit. At first, he responded “no” because of the expense. However, during our meeting, I told him I could use my own horse to start the program and identified the benefits for our community policing efforts. After discussing details, he agreed to let me start the unit with another employee who owned a horse. We also found several other agencies in our area that had active programs and worked with them to establish the unit.

Benefits to the Community

My excitement and enthusiasm have been shared by the community. Since the Concord, North Carolina, Police Department’s (CPD) Horse Mounted Patrol Unit began in 2018, it has received a growing number of requests to attend events.

The CPD has found considerable success using mounted units for ceremonies and city functions. Our debut was at the city’s 2018 Christmas tree lighting ceremony. We approached it with nervousness but successfully handled that event as well as the parade the next afternoon. There were two miles of kids with crazy-sounding horns, sirens from fire trucks, motorcycles circling around us, and Santa and his reindeer. We also involved the media.

Further, we had to get creative with picking up the horses’ waste along the way. An officer dressed in a festive costume served this role. The kids and adults both loved it. It was a hit.

Since those events, the horses are expected to appear regularly. City council members have come up to pet them on occasion.

A mounted officer has an elevated vantage point — approximately 10 feet — with a commanding view of the surroundings. This allows officers to monitor large crowds. Horses can also navigate challenging terrains, which assists in urban areas during patrol and search and rescue. Further, being on horseback allows officers to avoid face-to-face confrontations with individuals.

“Mounted patrol units are an asset to departments by bridging the gap between officers and their communities and opening the door for better relationships that will continue to grow.”

The horses’ presence fosters positive interactions between officers and the public. With today’s focus on community policing, agencies strive to build trust and rapport with the people they serve and protect. And a mounted officer is six times more likely than one on foot to be approached by a citizen.1

Over the past few years, I have seen how the horses have impacted our community. We see the children's faces as they get the courage to pet such a large animal. Our unit’s positive effects are seen at every event we attend.

Additionally, considering that officers best serve the community while at their healthiest, there is another important benefit. Over the years in law enforcement, we have pushed forward in emotional support and theory for officers. We have peer support teams and critical incident K9s, all of which help our officers and their mental health. Horses in the mounted units also fall into this category. I have found that spending time with these animals, whether it be training, riding, stall cleaning, or maintaining equipment, is when I am at ease. This is my escape from the workday.

An image of the author with her horse.

Possible Challenges

Just as with other law enforcement endeavors, obstacles can come along with mounted units. One of the CPD’s is the number of horses available. Although the agency provides the equipment, it does not own the horses — the officers do. As of May 2024, we have two horses on the team, along with two riders. The owners care for their own horses. 

Horses also need transportation to events. We do not have a department-owned horse trailer, so I use my own to transport them. Owners/officers must put in extra time, work, and money to make that happen. This issue also arises with departments that have their own horses. Further, transportation is expensive, and when budget cuts occur, mounted units are usually affected first. 


Police departments can fully fund the horses and unit, or the animals can be donated. Nonprofit programs are available to assist with expenses. Or, like the Concord Police Department, officers who own their horses can offer to use theirs in the program. We pay for their daily expenses, while the department funds needed equipment for the horses and riders. 

Mounted patrol units are an asset to departments by bridging the gap between officers and their communities and opening the door for better relationships that will continue to grow. My involvement in this endeavor has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.

Captain McGhee can be reached at


1 “Mounted Police Units in Neighbourhoods ‘Boost Confidence and Trust,’” University of Oxford, November 19, 2014,‘boost-confidence-and-trust’.