Corn Hill residents may be hearing the sound of hoofbeats more frequently these days as the Rochester Police Department’s Mounted Patrol Unit spends time patrolling our streets. The CHNA Security Committee has invited a member of the unit to share some interesting facts and history of the Rochester Mounted Patrol.
The Mounted Patrol Division of the Rochester Police Department was originally fielded in 1895, when officers were expected to supply their own horses. In 1903, a detail of mounted police was formed as part of the organizational structure of the Department. The patrol was disbanded in 1937 due to the boom of motor vehicle style policing. In 1977, as downtown Rochester was being revitalized, Mayor Tom Ryan and Rochester Police Department Chief Tom Hastings instituted police walking beats, motorcycle and scooter patrols, and mounted patrols. The modern RPD Mounted Patrol Unit was established in May,1977 by RPD Sergeant Gary Cicoria, commander of the Unit, and Officers JJ Strong and Jack Richter.
As he built the new unit, Sgt. Cicoria consulted numerous Police Mounted Patrols across the country, even visiting the Toronto Metropolitan Police Mounted Patrol to interview their command and examine their facilities. Upon his return to Rochester, Sgt. Cicoria was given thirty days to outfit the three-man Unit with uniforms, two horses with tack, and train the Unit to be ready to patrol downtown by July 1st of 1977. After looking at nearly three hundred horses, the first two were selected, and a “Name the Horse” contest was initiated with students in the City School District. The first two horses were named Downtown Dolly, and Midtown Yankee.
The first training location was a temporary construction site, now home to the Strong Museum of Play. Enticed by local media exposure, the Rochester community raised enough funds to purchase a third horse which was named Copper. In the fall of 1977, Sgt Cicoria was tasked with acquiring a fourth horse, and Domino, joined the Unit. At this time, a temporary winter barn was acquired in the East Avenue/Inner Loop area to shelter the horses. During the Blizzard of ’77 the Mounted Unit was integral in answering calls for service and assisting stranded motorists, to include delivering an emergency supply of plasma that was being delivered from Highland Hospital to St. Mary’s Hospital. The officer delivering the plasma had become snowbound in his police car at East Avenue and Alexander St. Mounted Officer George DeWitt and Mount Midtown Yankee delivered the plasma to St. Mary’s Hospital, allowing for the successful surgery on an injured city resident. The Mounted Unit had secured its place in the RPD. The Unit continued to grow, expanding to its largest in 1991 with twelve horses, ten Officers, and one Sergeant. A permanent location was acquired in 1979 in the Helix of the South Avenue parking garage, where the Unit remained until1994 when