Like Predecessor, Allard Backs Mounted Patrol

Posted April 26, 2005 at 6:18pm

Echoing the sentiments of his predecessor atop the Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch, Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) said Tuesday that he will lend his support to the Capitol Police Department’s mounted unit.

Allard, who succeeded retired Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), as chairman of the subcommittee, said he has decided to give his support to the program after a recent meeting with Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer.

“We get a good bang for the buck on it,” Allard said of the program, which the Capitol Police estimate costs from $85,000 to $100,000 to maintain annually.

Allard said during his meeting with Gainer he wanted to ensure the program had not been forced on the police, and he inquired of the chief whether the mounted unit is “helpful” to the department.

“He felt they did work and they did help,” Allard said. He added that experts on police activities have suggested a “a mounted rider might be comparable to 10 officers on foot,” a figure often cited by Capitol Police officials.

While Allard admits his own prejudices — “Being a Westerner I want to see horses out on the street” — he asserts that his primary concerns are the cost-effectiveness of the program.

“My responsibility is purely professional,” Allard added when asked whether his training as a veterinarian plays any role in his support for the unit.

According to Allard, the department is seeking $160,000 for the unit in fiscal 2006.

“I don’t see anything that’s particularly alarming there,” Allard said. The legislative branch subcommittee is scheduled to convene a hearing on the Capitol Police Department’s fiscal 2006 budget request at 11 a.m. today.

The figure does not include funds for new stable facilities, the chairman said. During the fiscal 2005 appropriations cycle, the Capitol Police had sought about $1 million to purchase prefabricated stables and support sheds for the mounted unit that would have been located in D.C. Village, a complex made up of various government agencies located south of Anacostia near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Instead, the unit’s five horses — named Justice, Honor, Freedom, Patriot and Tribute — are currently housed 30 minutes southeast of the District at a Bureau of Land Management facility in Lorton, Va.

Still, the fledgling program — which marks its one-year anniversary next month — has drawn ire from a handful of House lawmakers who sought to eliminate the unit in the fiscal 2005 appropriations cycle, and proved a point of contention between the chambers.

While the unit survived that round of appropriations with Campbell’s support, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a frequent critic of the program who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, has vowed to oppose the unit again this session.

For his part, Allard acknowledged that “some controversy” surrounds the unit, and said he wants to be sensitive to the leadership of both chambers. “We’ll see when we get into [conference] negations,” he added.