This week, the Baltimore Police Department’s mounted unit welcomed a Percheron gelding named Slurpee. The purchase price of the new horse was sponsored by a donation from 7-Eleven, and he was named after the convenience stores’ signature frozen drink. But he’s not the first equine Slurpee in Baltimore.
“The story begins about a decade ago. 7-Eleven reached out to the Baltimore Police Department to sponsor a draft horse for the mounted unit,” said Mike Krowkowski, Market Manager for 7-Eleven, in a speech introducing Slurpee on Wednesday. “This horse, known affectionately as Slurpee, was a crowd favorite in the city for nearly 10 years. Recently, at the age of 17, our original Slurpee began a well-deserved retirement. Today, at this time, we add a new Slurpee to the force.”
In Baltimore, as in most cities with mounted units, police horses are used to patrol the streets during special events and other busy times. Officers often say that they have a better view of an area from the back of a horse than they would on the ground or on a bicycle. But police horses are also helpful in fostering a sense of community between residents and the officers who patrol the neighborhoods.
“[Horses] really bridge the gap with the community and just interact,” Sgt. Russ Robar told the Baltimore Sun.
Police work doesn’t come naturally to most horses, so it’s always a victory to find horses—like both of Baltimore’s Slurpees—who have the right mind for the job.
“About one in ten work out, believe it or not,” says Robar. “It’s not an easy exercise for these horses to come out, work in a city environment, be able to handle all this, be able to go to an elementary school, to be able to handle closing clubs on a Saturday night…They have to know when it’s time to just relax, be petted on and enjoy life, or when it’s time to go to work and be out on patrol.”
Baltimore has the oldest continuously run mounted unit in the United States, having started in 1888. The unit made news earlier this year when it was announced that they would be building a new stable next to the B&O Railroad Museum. The facility will not only house the city’s police horses, but will include a museum showcasing the history of horses in police work. Visitors will be able to tour the museum and meet the horses at the stables.
“It’s about community-police relations,” Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh told CBS Baltimore. “That’s what we really like about it.”
Leslie Potter is a writer and photographer based in Lexington, Kentucky. www.lesliepotterphoto.com