Police Horse Makes His First Arrest

police horses

Murphy (on left), with Diesel & Olin.

Many city police departments have an equine division. Have you ever seen a police horse at work? Do you have police horses in your city? Portland, Oregon is one city that loves their police horses, and one of their star horses is named Murphy. Recently, he made his first arrest.

Murphy the police horse

Murphy, just months after arriving at the mounted patrol unit barn.

Murphy has not been a police horse for very long, and he had to work hard to become one.

Murphy arrived at the mounted patrol barn in Northwest Portland on Dec. 11, 2012. Even though he was only 6 years old, he was out of shape and overweight—and he had just 30 days to make the first cut or he’d be sent back home.

1. It is August, 2014 now, how many months has it been since Murphy first arrived at the patrol barn? (Include August, 2014 when calculating your answer.)

2. In what year was Murphy born?

Murphy police horse

Murphy greets visitor in May, 2013.

When Murphy first arrived, Jennifer Mack, the unit’s equestrian and training instructor, learned that he weighed 1,900 pounds. She estimated he should only weigh about 1,700 pounds.

3. How many pounds overweight was Murphy at this time?

The unit didn’t have a saddle big enough to fit around him. Murphy began a diet and exercise program to loose weight and get in shape.

The patrol barn features an electric walker, a kind of a treadmill that gently prods a horse to keep walking in a circle. Murphy had three one-hour sessions a day.

Murphy police horse

Cassandra Wells takes Murphy on a training walk along Portland’s waterfront.

4. A horse walks at an average speed of 4 miles per hour. How many miles would Murphy walk each day on the treadmill?

“A person who’s been sitting on the couch for years isn’t going to get up and start jogging five miles a day,” Mack said. “I had to get him conditioned before we could see what he had.”

The first week, Murphy could trot in a circle for five minutes and canter for two. His time at these exercises was slowly increased by 5 minutes at the trot per week and 3 minutes at the canter each week.

5. If you were in charge of this portion of Murphy’s exercise program, how many minutes would you have him trot the second week?

6. How many minutes would you have him canter the second week?

police horse Murphy

Murphy meets some of Portland’s residents.

By late January, he was trotting for 35 minutes and cantering for 10. It was a good thing too because Murphy made the first cut.

The average speed of a horse trotting is 13 to 19 kilometres per hour (8.1 to 12 mph). As you can see, there is a greater range in speed between horses at the trot than there is at the walk.

7. Knowing what you know about Murphy, would you estimate his trotting speed to be at the fast end or slow end of this range?

The average speed of a horse cantering is 19 to 24 kilometres per hour (12 to 15 mph).


This question is a little more advanced. Want to try it?

8. If Murphy cantered at a speed of 20 kilometres per hour (12.5 mph), how far would he canter in 10 minutes? Give your answer to the nearest tenth.

After months of work, Murphy made the grade and by October 2013, he and officer Cassandra Wells, started patrolling in the city’s Pearl District.

9. How many months of training did Murphy require before he was ready to be out on patrol? 

Portland police horse

Murphy & Olin on patrol.

In mid-June this summer, Murphy had his first horse pursuit. “Someone was trying to break into a building,” Cassandra said. “He [the suspect] took off, and so did we.”

The man ran, with Murphy and officer Wells galloping after him, it was six blocks before the big horse cornered him. Murphy kept the suspect trapped next to a building in the Old Town district until officers could cuff him.

“It was the first time Murphy has been involved in an arrest,” Cassandra said. “He did everything I needed him to do.’

He got a treat at the end of the shift, she said.

Murphy is among the eight animals that patrol downtown to the delight of Portlanders.

“He’s awesome,” Cassandra said. “He wants to keep learning. I couldn’t have a better partner.”

“If anyone wants to see him, we start our day in Old Town each morning,” she continued. “Then we move out into the city.”

Common Core:
3.OA.C.7 – Fluently multiply and divide within 100
3.OA.D.8 – Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division word problems
4.NBT.B.4 – Fluently add and subtract multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm

All photos courtesy of Save Portland’s Mounted Patrol


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