Last month Miami-Dade Police sent Jet Bullet, a reliable old stallion, an upstanding member of their nine-horse unit, out to pasture. The reason: tendinitis.
But that wasn't the worst news for the equine cops.
Miami-Dade commissioners purchased eight Segways those two-wheel, stand-up, motorized riding things that look like old-fashioned lawn mowers on steroids at $5000 a pop. Soon there was excited talk about rolling over shoplifters and cutting down jaywalkers everywhere from Lincoln Road to Biscayne Park. Commish Bruno Barreiro touted the Segways as the "future of community policing" and "better than a bike."
Then Commissioner Sally Heyman raised the stakes. "The Segway," she said, "is less expensive and requires less maintenance than a horse."
Responded the head mountie, Sgt. Robert Baker: "You'll never see a Segway in inner-city Miami," he said, calling the vehicles a "Miami Beach novelty.... The horse will never be replaced."
Miami New Times decided to referee the great Segway vs. Horse debate. Herein is a closer look at the key factors.
Segway: Top speed of the police model: 13 mph.
Horse: Even a gimpy, overweight nag can top 20 mph after a full-blown hay buffet.
Segway: The price is around $5000. Charging and replacing the lithium batteries can cost more.
Horse: Often donated free to the Miami mounted unit. Roughly $2000 per year in hay, plus $400 or $500 for horsey shoes. Then add vet costs.
Horse: The fatal flaw of Mr. Ed: He cant do backward.
Segway: Great at going forward and backward.
Segway: What happens when you walk away from your Segway in certain neighborhoods in Miami? Sergeant Baker asks. Good point.
Horse: This aint rustlin country. No one in Miami steals horses, Baker says confidently.
Segway: No, and besides they dont freak out around Yorkshire terriers.
Parade Show/Nursing Home-ability
Horse: Nothing can give your parade that special je ne sais quoi more than a few well-groomed stallions. Also horses are very popular with old folks and kiddies.
Segway: Cant currently envision the Segway unit marching triumphantly down Flagler Street.
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Overall Winner: Tie. But hay, we got a weak spot for the fillies. Tossup goes to the pony.
Sources: Commissioners Barreiro and Heyman, Segway Website, Sergeant Baker