"My heart's been cut out," said Marelli, poised to retire. "The unit's been decimated. This is what I've known. They're putting me out to pasture, too."
Newark's mounted unit of 18 horses will be officially out of work come Jan. 31 after 120 years, victims of budget woes. But Newark's loss is Philadelphia's gain.
Sometime this week, Marelli will load up a horse trailer with feed, hay, and bedding, and bring the Philadelphia Police Department four new recruits: Broadway Kevin, Amazing Art, Seelster
Sam, and American Yankee.
All are standardbreds and former racehorses.
Like Newark, Philadelphia ended its mounted police unit - in 2004 for budgetary reasons after 32 years.
According to then-Managing Director Phil Goldsmith, its 19 horses cost between $400,000 and $500,000 annually in room, board, and grooming.
But in November, the police department launched a campaign to raise about $2 million to restore what was always considered a highly effective program. State Sen. Larry Farnese, a Democrat from
Philadelphia, promised a $100,000 state grant, local businesses such as Comcast Corp., 7-Eleven Inc., and Verizon Wireless gave a combined $50,000, and the nonprofit Philadelphia Police Foundation is still collecting donations.
"It's going to start," Lt. Raymond Evers, a Philadelphia police spokesman, said. "We're just not sure when. The commissioner wants it. The mayor wants it. It's about funding and getting our shop in order. But sometimes you don't want to pass up a gift."
Accommodations are still being worked out, said Evers, but the four Newark horses will likely board at a barn in Chester County until they are ready to be trained and called to duty.
It was definitely an effective patrol technique," Evers said, "and it was great for community relations."
Evers recalled mounted-police stations on Passyunk Avenue, South Street, and Rittenhouse Square, and he described the unit's many benefits. Outside sports stadiums, mounted officers gained an extra 10 feet of vision. In Fairmount Park, they kept a close eye on joggers. At demonstrations, parades, and conventions, an officer on horseback was great at controlling crowds.
Unlike a patrol car, Evers said, a horse can travel on sidewalks, navigate narrow streets, and jump over things.
"A horse can move a lot of people," Evers said. "Sometimes people don't want to listen to the cops, but they'll listen to a horse."
The Newark horses reside at the Standardbred Retirement Foundation in Hamilton Township, Mercer County. The breed, known as pacers or trotters, tends to be calmer than thoroughbreds, adoption
coordinator Jennifer Nagle said.
Good police horses, she said, "stand still, and they're obedient. A gun can go off, or a dog could come try to bite them - that has happened - and these horses have to be professional and
stay calm and stay on the job."
Police horses also tend to be male, and stand strong at about 16 hands (64 inches), creating a force of uniform size.
One of every 10 flunks out, said Nagle, recalling a recruit that was afraid of buses. The four Newark pacers ready to join the Philadelphia force are well-trained for screeching traffic and noisy crowds, Nagle said.
Newark's Marelli finds consolation in the transfer of what he will remember as "a very busy unit, a very productive unit."
"It's a godsend," said Marelli, who said he had been around and loved horses since he was 5. "I can't feel too bad about it, because the horses are being put to good use."