NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The New Orleans Police Department mounted patrol is one of the most visible units in the city, and it's one horse stronger with the birth of its newest member Sunday.
It was a very special meet-the-baby party as 120-pound Tebo Stardust romped with his mother, Endy, just three days after his birth.
"Everybody gets out of the way of the horses," said Third District Commander Jeff Walls.
"As a rule of thumb, a policeman on a horse can do about the work of eight to 10 policemen on foot," said David Waguespack, the lead mounted unit instructor.
For many years, NOPD's specially trained horses started life at Angola, but the prison phased out its breeding program.
"That was our lifeline for the last 20-some odd years to replenish our stock," Waguespack said. "They liquidated their program. They no longer have a horse program. We've now started a breeding program of our own, and about every year-and-a-half or so we'll have couple of foals."
"Just like people retire, we have horses retire, and when they retire we have to restock that manpower or horsepower," Walls said.
Not all horses can handle the duty.
"You know, we've got to put these horses in the middle of Bourbon Street, tens of thousands of people, the noise, the ruckus, the music, you know parades, the floats," Waguespack said.
Tebo Stardust is the first in what NOPD hopes will be a long line of born-and-bred horses to help serve the city.
"If we can start them at an early age, for the most part we know they will pretty much be a very good police mount," Waguespack said.
Walls said they had to find a way to keep the program going when many other cities have abandoned the mounted units.
"A lot of times people will come in and not realize how useful the horses are until you have actually seen them at work," Walls said.
Not only are the horses good public relations, with tourists taking pictures and making officers visible in the crowds, their work can be life-saving.
"If you look back, we've had shootings on Bourbon Street, and the first people on the scene are mostly going to be the mounted unit," Walls said. "They are going to be clearing the crowd to get EMS in, and then they are able to move the crowd to get EMS out. That's another issue - getting EMS out - because the crowd is still there. It's just a great tool for us."
A second horse, Allie, is due at the end of April, and in the next two to three years these foals could be on duty.
"Tebo" was named by Cecile Tebo, the longtime mental health advocate with NOPD whose donation helped get the program started. The foal will stay with his mother for about six months as he starts his police training.