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Monday, June 16, 2008

A K-9 and horse show

Public officials here think that Trenton residents are idiots.

That much is apparent from a newspaper article today detailing the withdrawal from the streets of the city’s highly touted and highly ineffective mounted police units, due to budgetary problems.

Former Police Director Joseph Santiago, talking to the Times of Trenton, said that the units are being pulled back from the streets because of the city’s fiscal crisis.

But further down in the article it’s revealed that the horses are still going to be retained on a pasture at the Mercer County Equestrian Center, for nearly 75 percent of the current cost of having them out on the street involved in police work.

The horses – all four of them – cost the city around $40,000 a year, with a majority of that cost coming from a $27,600 fee to board the animals at the horse center. The city isn’t getting rid of the animals, so Trenton will still be incurring most of the cost in maintaining a mounted unit, without actually having the unit on the street.

What’s the point then?

The former director admitted that the horses’ $40,000 price tag was a drop in the bucket for Trenton, which has a $40 million police budget, but that public pressure requires the unit be “disbanded.” But the Times report looks like they are simply being removed out of the public view while remaining on the city budget rolls.

Where the City of Trenton will actually be savings dollars is in reduced overtime costs from having the officers assigned to the horses being out on patrol instead.

Of course, Mr. Santiago neglected to point this out, probably in hopes of painting the elimination of his pet horse unit as some sort of misguided and unnecessary budgetary matter forced on him by the reality of Trenton's finances.

While Mr. Santiago has decided to keep the unused horses, he has moved forward with eliminating the much more useful K-9 units.

What's known as the vice unit is also a casualty of the fiscal crisis, even though it represented perhaps the best tool in the TPD arsenal in dealing with high-level drug dealers and other dangerous criminals of the worst sort, but no one apparently cares about that.

Dealing with the budget crisis by keeping the horses and getting rid of vice and the K-9dogs is becoming a literal dog-and-pony show, as Mr. Santiago spins the elimination of one of his favorite units as some sort of ineffective budget casualty, while unceremoniously eliminating other more effective police units.

Trenton residents are once again going to get the short end of the stick.

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