Two NYPD officers from Long Island were among six graduates who joined the department's 142-year-old elite mounted unit at a ceremony in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx Tuesday.
Under a brilliant blue sky outside the stables of Mounted Unit Troop D, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said the officers and their trusty steeds play a crucial role in handling crowd control for big events in the city.
"Major events and holiday celebrations are an important part of our city's life blood. They bring jobs, they bring visitors to the city, pumping revenue into our economy when we need it the most," Kelly said.
He also noted that it was a mounted officer who was flagged down in May 2010 by a street vendor to alert him to a smoldering car bomb planted near Times Square by convicted terrorist Faisal Shahzad. That officer, another Long Islander, Wayne Rhatigan of Holbrook, quickly began an evacuation.
Among the graduates who finished the 13-week course were officers Meghan O'Leary, 28, and Christopher Perrucci, 36, both of Suffolk County. While Perrucci, of Sayville, said he was an experienced rider, O'Leary said she was a newcomer, having been riding only a few months. A total of 71 officers are assigned to the mounted unit.
"I love animals, I love horses," she said, posing after the ceremony with her mount, Chestnut.
A police official said that candidates for mounted duty don't necessarily have to have previous experience with horses since the department likes to train officers to the particular challenges of the job. The unit began right after the Civil War and at one time had hundreds of horses, compared with the 60 mounts currently being used.
Other graduates included detective Crystal McHugh, 32, who was cited as the best rider of the group, Ramon DaSilva, Jamail Elliott and Michael Weiss, all 33.
The officers went through an intensive three-month course that included riding, caring for their horses and administering medical care, said a police spokesman.
Before Kelly spoke, the group of six officers performed a 10-minute routine to recorded music in a riding area, putting their mounts through carefully choreographed trots and canters, including a pinwheel formation.