Giddy-up, officer

Charles at Large: A fifth-generation Atlantan explains the city

Q: Why does the APD still use horses?

Whenever I see a cop on a horse, I chuckle. How can a species that is more prey than predator fight big-city crime? “They can maneuver through crowds and push [the crowd] back by their sheer size,” says Allison Ashe, of the Atlanta Police Foundation. “They can also navigate into areas that cars or bikes or motorcycles can’t, like the woods.” Mayor Franklin disbanded the mounted unit in 2002 for budget reasons but brought it back in 2005. “We were the only large city in the country that didn’t have one,” says Ashe—and it hurt event-related business. A mounted patrol “is one of the first things [organizers] look at when they’re considering doing an event in a large city.” The unit has had an annual budget of $166,299 for veterinary bills, feed, saddles, and the like. The budget doesn’t cover buying the horses, the majority of which are Percherons (big, calm-tempered draft horses). The animals cost the APF between $3,000 and $5,000 apiece, unless donated. And it’s $5,000 to adopt a horse: “You get to give that horse a nickname,” says Ashe. “And you get to have your own plaque on its stall.” The unit’s fourteen horses are stabled near Grant Park.

Illustration by Edwin Fotheringham

Got an Atlanta question? E-mail Charles Bethea at