Horse patrols back out for Fourth of July

July 3, 2009 3:54:17 PM PDT
After complaints and even injuries at a parade in the Montrose area, Houston police are talking more about how their mounted patrol is used in crowds. A lot of you will be seeing them this weekend at Fourth of July celebrations around town.

Kirste Reimers, 50, says her face is grossly disfigured after she was trampled by a Houston police horse at last week's Gay Pride parade. Those same horses will be out patrolling Fourth of July festivities this weekend.

"I'm certain the city of Houston and HPD is reviewing its policies and procedures to make sure this weekend is a safe weekend," said Pete Patterson, Reimer's attorney.

Patterson gives the police department the benefit of the doubt, but Houston police told us their mounted patrol has not and will not do any further special training since last week's incident.

According to Jodi Silva with HPD, the mounted patrol does "...standard continuous training on how to handle crowds on a weekly or bi-weekly basis."

Patterson believes Reimers was injured because of the officer's negligence, not the animal, but adds horses should be kept at a distance from crowds.

"In order to control crows using horses makes sense, but when you're getting within touching distance of people who live here in Houston, that's a danger," said Patterson.

Video from last Saturday's Gay Pride parade shows horses can become uncontrollable.

According to Houston police, "There is no standard distance between horses and people" at events like these.

"We use fencing for our perimeters," said Susan Christian with the city of Houston. "It's still a very controlled environment even though it is a free event."

Christian says there will be more than 200 officers working this weekend's big Fourth of July festival. Some will be on horses, though she was unsure how many. Christian says they've successfully used horses to patrol the event before and don't anticipate problems this year, like the one Reimers says she lived through last weekend.

"It's such a different event," said Christian. "We're not pulling vehicles or anything thru the crowds, which you handle differently than when you look at a festival."

Patterson says these horses are more appropriate to use when riding the perimeter or to quickly respond to a situation.

Meantime, Reimers has seen doctors and plastic surgeons. Her attorney will be filing formal complaint with HPD in coming weeks.

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