Battery By Horse

January 18, 2011

If you were shoved, even poked, by someone 10 feet tall and weighing 1500 pounds, would you consider that offensive? I damned sure would, even considering it a criminal battery, but it's become a common occurrence that is often lauded by the public.

Battery is a criminal offense involving unlawful physical contact, distinct from assault in that the contact is not necessarily violent. In the United States, criminal battery, or simply battery, is the use of force against another, resulting in harmful or offensive contact. It is a specific common law misdemeanor, although the term is used more generally to refer to any unlawful offensive physical contact with another person, and may be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. Battery was defined at common law as "any unlawful touching of the person of another by the aggressor himself, or by a substance put in motion by him." In most cases, battery is now governed by statute, and its severity is determined by the law of the specific jurisdiction.  Each jurisdiction will be slightly different but that definition will do for discussion's sake.  And now on to the horses used for battering...

The expertise of a mounted unit officer in crowd control is renowned. The officers are used extensively at concerts, parades, sporting events, demonstrations and other events that take place throughout the year. It has been estimated that one mounted officer on horseback has the effect of ten officers on foot. A mounted officer can be seen for blocks, presenting a greater crime deterrent; every mounted officer is 10 feet tall. Being on horseback enables a mounted officer to see at greater distances as well as over privacy fences and other tall barriers. Mounted officers are also able to ride on horseback into areas where a squad car cannot go.

One mounted patrol officer and his/her horse has been compared to the effectiveness of 10 to 12 police officers on the ground in crowd control situations... Although a mounted officer on horseback may be intimidating while in crowd control situations the general public sees him/her as very approachable.  Indeed and therein lies a problem.  If you touch the horse, you may be accused of battery yet these mounted horse patrols are often used to batter the citizenry in the name of "crowd control".  That we laud this says we let our love of animals override our good sense because we do not understand how these animals are truly used.

Crowd control techniques were introduced... More experienced horses and riders practiced pushing human volunteers out of the way. "It's what we call 'soft intimidation,' " said [Milwaukee Police Sgt. Fred] Tice.  A properly trained and mounted officer becomes one with the mount.  That officer becomes 10 feet tall, weighing 1500 pounds or more.  The officer can then stride into a crowd of us normal under 6 foot tall, under 200 pound folks.  How the hell being pushed by 1500 pounds of 10 feet tall creature can be call "soft" is beyond me!

In fact, there is nothing "soft" about it.  Montrose resident Kirste Reimers, 50, is recovering from being trampled by Kato, a 1,200-pound gelding. She might need plastic surgery to repair the damage to her chin, face, mouth, jaw and teeth... Reimers was probably less than a foot away from Kato when she turned into the horse as he took a step forward. “They basically collided,” Wallace said.  Lt. Randall Wallace was head of the Houston Police Department’s mounted unit and riding nearby at the time.  Let's take what he says at face value and say it was a mere collision.

He [Wallace] said there is no reason to re-evaluate the use of horses for crowd control. “It is not uncommon for us to bump into or brush up against people when they fail to obey verbal commands in the presence of the horse,” he added. “The alternative is officers with nightsticks jabbing and pushing, and we can avoid all that with officers on horseback.”  So, basically he's saying it's better to be trampled by a horse than beaten by a nightstick as if those were the only alternatives and as if this poor woman would obviously have deserved a nightstick beating for failing to instantly obey police commands.  That does indeed seem to be where all too many law enforcement members now stand on these issues.

If you or your animal fails to instantly obey their commands, even if they are on YOUR property for no decent, let alone good or legal reason, you and/or your animals are subject to beating or shooting even unto death.  If you're lucky, you will merely be accused of having a dangerous animal, fined outrageously, and subjected to onerous and expensive requirements for fencing, muzzles, confinement, and/or insurance.  Many communities are now seeking to put such onerous requirements even on those owners of "potentially" dangerous animals.

On the flip side, Mounted Horse and K-9 Patrol have become all the rage in law enforcement.  They are even quite popular with children, so many of these websites say. These fine animals deserve protection and laws to do that are proliferating rapidly.  It is now a crime in many jurisdictions to intentionally do them harm and I wholeheartedly approve.  Yet these fine animals are increasingly used as a form of abuse of police powers.  In doing that, the animal handler is the one harming the animal and it is that officer who should be held fully accountable.

The top priority in using working animals is having rational owners/handlers of those animals.  When K-9 are sent after subjects with low flying helicopters interfering with handler/dog communications, there is nothing rational going on; merely a fiercely trained tool loosed on a citizen.  When a mounted officer uses his/her horse to shove humans without good cause, there is nothing rational going on; simply a battery of a citizen by a law enforcement officer who either hasn't got control of his/her mount or is intentionally abusing his/her power and using his/her bloated presence as one with the horse to do so.

When a mounted officer has his/her horse shove their face into a human's face, it is natural and to be expected that the person will push the horse's face away.  In fact, it is normal and to be expected that a person may be so startled that they would strike out at the sudden appearance of a horse in their face in the midst of a metro area. As noted in so many of the law enforcement websites I visited, the mounted officer has a large and intimidating presence so it should not be necessary to get up close to anyone unless one's intent is to cause a problem and it should certainly not be common to "bump into or brush up against people".  Not only are these encounters not a battery of the horse, it is a battery by the mounted officer of the citizen.  Battery by horse should be every bit as unacceptable to the citizenry as battery by nightstick.

And LEOs, you simply can't have it both ways.  You can't treat our animals as disposable while seeking extraordinary protection for yours.  It is the height of hypocrisy and irrationality to do so.  Either animals are of value and to be understood and treated rationally or they are disposable.  Choose.  It certainly seems to me that you've chosen the latter so far when you shoot dogs basically on whims and put your own highly trained animals in harm's way by using them to abuse your powers.  You have the power but do you have the authority?  Do they still teach that phrase in law enforcement academies?  Do they remind you that to keep respect, you must stay within the bounds of authority rather than power?

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