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Tempe Police Department Mounted Unit

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4 uniformed officers on police horses

close up of police breast badge being proudly worn on a PD horse's chest

Mounted Horse Rex and Officer with Tempe Town Lake in the background

Mounted Officers

The Tempe Police Mounted Unit currently consists of seven horses, one sergeant, two full-time officers, 13 reserve officers, one part-time Groom, and 18 teen volunteers.

The seven mounts of the Mounted Unit are officers Titan, Ranger, Rex, Rio, Stryder, Thor and LEO (short for law enforcement officer. LEO was named by our community. All are geldings ranging in age from 5 to 14 years old. The mounts undergo a rigorous pre-purchase vet exam; and sensory, temperament, and riding evaluations.

The Tempe Police Department purchases or accepts donations of quality horses with excellent dispositions and sound conformation. Mounts have excellent train-ability, willing dispositions and enough heart to chase down an offender, move through a crowd of people, and do the job without distraction from fireworks, traffic, music or carnival rides or other commotion. The unit obtains most of its mounts locally and spends a considerable amount of time searching for just the right horse before a purchase is made or donation accepted. 

Mounted Unit History

The mounted unit was established in 1974, originally to patrol the 128 acre Kiwanis Park, which was then under development in south Tempe.

The first two officers selected to staff the new unit were Officers Jim Phillips and Loren Wunderle and mounts Mopaho and Radar. The officers were responsible for the upkeep on their tack, equipment and maintenance of the boarding facility; in addition to patrolling the park and other areas of the city, including the downtown district. The mounted unit was not self-sufficient at that time and the officers were attached to the squad working the night shift out of the nearest substation.

As Tempe grew, the Mounted Unit began to focus much of its time in the Downtown/Mill Ave area, with its large crowds, clubs, restaurants, theaters, events, and festivals.  In 1990 Mounted Reserves were added to the unit roster. Reserves serve a minimum of two patrol shifts each month as an ancillary to their regular duties.  The role of the Mounted Unit has grown over the past four decades to include crowd management, high visibility enforcement, person searches, as well as park, neighborhood, business and entertainment district patrol, public relations such as working with school children, and training.

Citizen volunteers were recruited through the Department's Volunteers In Policing (VIP) program to help with maintenance duties and twice daily feedings. A part time paid groom was added to the Unit in 1994. The civilian staff freed the officers from some of the routine duties associated with horse ownership and have become an indispensable asset to the unit.

Mounted Unit Training

Basic police horsemanship for our mounted unit includes an initial 120 hours of academic and practical basic training. The subject matter is applicable whether the student police officer is an experienced cowboy, hunter/jumper or novice rider and instruction is individualized to the student’s strengths and needs. Topics include stable and horse management; safety; the police horse; illnesses and injuries; basic and intermediate equitation; tack and equipment; trailer operation; crowd control; equine anatomy; and conformation, drills, ceremonies and a lot of saddle time. Student police officers must pass a written and practical skills test to complete the course.

The basic horsemanship course is presented on an as-needed basis and is available to officers from other Arizona police agencies without cost. It is intended to provide a comprehensive, foundation for the officer wishing to perform his, or her, duties from horseback.

The mounted unit follows the basic course with on-the-job training for new mounted officers taught by experienced full time riders before assignment to crowd control, the downtown or allowed to ride solo. In addition to the departmental and statutory training required of all officers of the Tempe Police Department, the mounted unit also requires monthly unit-level training for all full-time and reserve mounted officers and they must pass an annual test of riding and tactical competency.

In addition to this formal training each officer is responsible for the continuous individual training of his, or her, mount. Like human youngsters, these intelligent animals require care, stimulation, repetition, reinforcement and discipline to reinforce their training and maintain the high level of performance required of a police mount.

two horses going over a mock bridge in obstacle training A crowd of people with hands waving in front of 4 PD horses during sensory training


  Obstacle Course & Crowd Control Training


State Laws Protecting Mounted Officers

Tempe Police Department Mounts are protected by State Statute.

Arizona Revised Statute 13-2910.A.6 makes it a Class 1 Misdemeanor to recklessly interfere with, strike or harm a service animal such as a police mount, police dog, or service dog, such as a seeing eye dog.

Arizona Revised Statute 13-2910 A.9 makes the same acts a Class 6 Felony if done intentionally. Anyone convicted of Interference with a Working Animal is liable to the department for the cost of care or replacement of an injured mount, training costs, and the salary of the equine officer while out of service, in addition to imprisonment for up to a year and a half and or a fine of up to $150,000.

We look forward to seeing you soon at an event, city park or in the Tempe downtown area. Thank you for your support of the Tempe Police Department’s Mounted Unit!

line of horses in an arena during equitation training

Equitation Training


 horses close together for formation training

Formation Training