It’s nearly 5 p.m. and Officer John Peterson of the Milwaukee Police Mounted Patrol watches the doors of Marquette University’s Al McGuire Center. He’s been there with his Percheron mare, Beth, for about three hours. Suddenly, the doors open and hundreds of people flood into the closed-off street.
“It’s nice now that people are around," Petersen said. "We’re just watching them go by. Until now we were watching the empty street."
He and his three fellow officers are enjoying being on Marquette’s campus thanks to a special request made to their captain for their presence on the momentous occasion: the inauguration of Marquette's first lay president. While the Marquette community celebrates the beginning of their president’s term, he and Beth keep the peace.
“Usually we’re downtown at special events. We do Summerfest, Jazz in the Park, River-Rhythms ... we work protests too, if there are any of those. We also just patrol around and focus on quality of life. … We’re police officers; we make arrests,” he said.
Despite their ability to make arrests, the patrol’s presence has a different air to it than with other officers. The mounted unit is one way the Milwaukee Police Department aims to presents itself as an approachable presence. So they try to work as much as they can, including the winters.
“Last year was just too much. When it got around October we knew that, so we couldn't do the winter,” he said.
Attendees of the ceremony continue to exit the Al. They stop to admire and stroke Beth and to take photos of the two. They then move on to attend the reception across campus. Peterson goes back to surveying the area. He does not know much about the event, the new president nor Marquette’s campus, but as he sits atop Beth on the warm fall day, it is clear he is in his element.
“I just love being able to spend time with horses," he says. "And the job itself - every day is different."
For more on the inauguration, see my Storify.
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