Worcester police mounted unit helping create positive connections with young residents

WORCESTER, Mass. — It’s not surprising to see Worcester Police patrolling Polar Park on a game night for the Worcester Red Sox, but the Mounted Unit actually has a mission beyond crowd control.

“The city, the police department wanted to start to bridge a gap between the youth in the city,” explained Sergeant William Pero.

But this new approach is more than just bringing the horses out in public as ambassadors of goodwill.

“With the horses, we wanted to make sure the kids had something tangible to hold onto and collect,” Pero added.

Kids, and even some Dads, can get free cards that look like baseball cards except they feature all seven of the city’s police horses.

Officer David Rojas says distributing them before the baseball games is a great ice breaker.

“It goes a long way, especially in this day and age with the temperature of things,” Rojas said. “Police are painted in a certain light and the cops aren’t big scary guys. We’re approachable.”

Pero believes each card they distribute helps build a bridge in the community.

That’s particularly important today when many people are skeptical of the police. A Gallup poll taken last summer found just 48% of Americans now trust law enforcement.

“It just creates the little seed planted in their head, like hey, this isn’t all bad. I can talk to these guys, these girls. I can go over and pet the horse. I can approach the police and have a meaningful conversation with them.”

It was working on a night in early June as kids flocked to the horses and gathered cards from the officers.

One boy told Boston 25 “It’s really cool. They’re really cute and really friendly and the officers are really friendly.”

Another added that the cards are cool, and he liked them.

Community members in Worcester got behind this idea. “The Friends of the Mounted Police” helped cover costs.

Graphic arts students at Worcester Technical High School designed the cards which look very professional.

Instructor Jean Collamore said the project was a great learning experience for her students.

“We often work with the community on these projects,” Collamore explained. “I specifically enjoy these because the students get some real-world experience. It gives them the chance to work with the clients, to work with deadlines, to do something meaningful.”

Like peanuts and hot dogs, the horses will be a fixture at Polar Park a couple of nights a week this season.

Rojas thinks that’s a homerun.

“It’s an awesome feeling. I worked Main South for 12 years on the overnights and that really wasn’t the reception we would get when we’d come knocking on a door at three in the morning.,” Rojas said. “Now it’s totally different. People want to come up to us.”

The Worcester Mounted Unit had been dissolved back in the 1940s but was brought back four years ago with a lot of help from the community.