Kingston has had a mounted police unit since 1998, but 2020 budget constraints forced Kingston police to drop the unit from the budget.
Community fundraising began to keep Murney the mounted unit’s horse on patrol, but then the pandemic hit, drying up donations at $5,000.
After some budget rejigging, Kingston police came up up with the remaining $30,000 to keep Murney and Const. Sarah Groenewegen on patrol until the end of 2020.
Another fundraising campaign got underway this past March with a goal of $75,000, which is estimated to be enough to keep Murney and Groenewegen patrolling the city for another two years.
To date, just under $29,000 has been raised.
Groenewegen credits the community and business owner Bev Allison with the effort to keep the mounted unit and the success of the campaign so far.
“Bev Allison has been kind of heading it and she’s done a great job.”
Eleven-year-old Murney and Groenewegen have been partners for the last five years and both are a popular visible presence in the city’s downtown core.
“Murney is an iconic symbol down there. She bridges that gap between the community and the police,” said Groenewegen.
That said, Murney is more than just a public relations effort.
Groenewegen says they perform duties just like any other officer in a cruiser does.
“We have been hitting different neighbourhoods because of COVID, so with the stay-at-home order we have been going out and doing enforcement,” Groenewegen said.
Groenewegen says being mounted on Murney gives her a view from a higher position than an officer in a cruiser has, which can be an advantage for spotting things like distracted driving.
“I can see down into the cars and so it’s pretty easy to lay some of the provincial offences tickets,” said Groenewegen.
Murney has also proven to be a great de-escalation tool, according to Groenewegen, and has been helpful with individuals in mental distress.
“She is a huge buffer. They don’t see us as a uniform then, they see Murney as a horse and they start petting her and they actually calm down,” Groenwegen said.
“Then we can actually talk to them and help them in that situation.”
The fundraiser is set to continue until the end of the year and donations are tax-deductible.