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Not Their First Rodeo

Mounted Division is the Cornerstone of NOPD's Carnival Crowd Control

CITY PARK -  “My whole life I was short, but it doesn’t matter up here,”   said Joe Catalanotto, as he slid off his steed, and reaches up to pat the mare's cheek.


Along with more than twenty other New Orleans Police Department officers, Catalanotto is a member of the NOPD Mounted Unit.  The police on horseback are easily the most visible symbol of a police force that is renowned for crowd control. As crowds swell and the city plummets into a sort of controlled chaos each year, Mardi Gras is the division's true test.


All man and beast partners train extensively with the Mounted Unit Academy to prepare them for protecting and controlling crowds in the French Quarter. Yesterday, the Unit left the stables, trotting in lines of four, to provide a demonstration beneath the oaks near Harrison Ave. and Marconi Dr. in City Park.


Chief Superindendent Serpas, nearly as tall as a horse himself, addressed the TV cameras before him, who were gathered to hear his briefing on Mardi Gras safety. Behind him, the horses were bucking and neighing. This will be Serpas’ first Carnival as Superintendent, and he plans on taking a few extra precautionary measures, including increasing the Mounted Division's presence. Where other police departments might view officers on horseback as a primarily symbolic show of force, Serpas views the stallions as an integral part of police work.


With this year's pleasant weather and convenient timing in the vicinity of college spring break, Serpas anticipates a significant influx of a “younger” crowd this year.  His confidence in the ability of the mounted patrol is unwavering.  This year alone the patrol intervened and apprehended five attempted robbers, fours simple robberies and one aggravated, in the quarter in just the past months, he said. Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman chimed in.


“This isn’t our first rodeo," he said, in a cadence appropriate for a man with the title of sheriff.


Serpas pointed out two of the greatest advantages to using a Mounted DivisionTeam. The first is visibility. Monitoring the flat city from atop a horse, officers have a vast view of the crowds perched atop their gallant steed. They also presumably serve as a deterrent  for any potential misbehavers in the crowd.  The second has more to do with the other reason New Orleanians are fascinated with horses: speed. While division cars, or even ambulances, may take hours to cut through the throng, horseback maneuvering through the sea of people goes is much quicker, Serpas said.


The Mounted Unit in New Orleans is widely considered one of the best for crowd control. According to Catalanotto, it’s because the horses, in addition to being well trained, are on Rue Bourbon virtually every night of the year, controlling the crowds day in and day out. That's not not to mention Sunday second lines, and special events like the Bayou Classic, French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest.   The horses are trained to endure thick, jostling crowds and plenty of loud noises.  They’re trained not to take off, kick, or get spooked, and they’re especially trained to swiftly and safely cut through the crowds if an emergency does occur. The Mounted Division horses meet these high standards year after year, meaning the only ones behaving  like animals out there are the tourists. And though this Mardi Gras is expected to have a huge turnout, Catalanotto isn’t worried about his or any of the other horses


“This is what we live for,” he said

steed = generally refers to a

steed = generally refers to a stallion
stallion = intact male horse (i.e. not used by the police)
mare = female horse (i.e. not a steed)
bucking = kicking hind feed in the air (i.e. something police horses are trained not to do)

just sayin'.

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