SPECIAL FEATURE: End of era as heroic mounted police horse unit scrapped
They work through the night and amid violent chaos and often risk serious injury to help protect the public, but from next year the Humberside Police mounted section is to be disbanded.
Chief Constable Tim Hollis on Friday confirmed the Section will be disbanded from March 31, 2014 in a bid to save money.
Humberside Police say the decision to scrap the Section, which costs £500,000 per year to maintain, will generate savings of £2 million over four years.
Instead of maintaining the Section 365 days a year, from next year the force will buy in mounted officers from neighbourhood forces in situations where it is deemed “an operational necessity”.
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Police horses, which have played an integral role within forces since 1760, provide high-visibility patrols on a daily basis and help officers tackle disorder, drug and drink-related behaviour.
From an elevated vantage point officers are able to identify potential issues before they develop, and the size of the horses mean officers can work without the need for large numbers of staff.
Mounted sections, including that of Humberside Police, were drafted in for last year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, while many others were tasked with maintaining order during royal celebrations.
Mounted sections were also utilised during tuition fee protests in 2010.
Mounted police officers have been used by police in West Yorkshire since the early 1890s, and by Humberside Police since the force's conception in 1974.
There are currently six operational horses and two full-time members of staff. The officers who work within the Mounted Section will be redeployed, a force spokesperson said.
Humberside is the latest in a line of forces to scrap police horses. Nottinghamshire and Essex Police forces last year abandoned their stables, and in November 2012 it was reported the mounted police section in South Yorkshire could close as the force seeks to cut costs.
All 14 horses based in Cudworth, near Barnsley, could move to West Yorkshire Police's mounted section based in Wakefield, the BBC reported.
As of November 2012 there were 14 mounted branches across England, Scotland and Wales, with a total of 286 horses. All forces will be looked at under the Government's Public Service spending review, Horse & Hound reports.
The closures mark the end of an era in policing history, and The Horse Trust says it is “difficult to imagine where we would be without these hardworking and fearless creatures”.
According to the Trust, “in several situations, one police horse can do the job of 12 police officers on the ground because of their physical mass and height advantage.
“The Mounted Branches worked tirelessly and heroically throughout the night across the country to restore order, dodging missiles and burning buildings as they fought to control the chaos.
“Police horses are the first on the front line in times of conflict, often risking serious injury to carry out their duties protecting the public.
“The physical and mental effort required by both horse and rider cannot be underestimated”.
Police horses were first used in London in 1760 to tackle highwaymen infesting the metropolitan area's turnpikes. The plan, put together by Bow Street magistrate Sir John Fielding, was so successful the original Horse Patrol of eight men was strengthened to more than 50 in 1805.
The Bow Street Horse Patrol was then able to provide protection on all main roads within 20 miles of Charing Cross. Their scarlet waistcoats, blue greatcoats and trousers and black leather hats and stocks were the first uniform issued to any police force in the world.
Its function changed over the years, from patrolling with a revolver and sword to prevent livestock thefts to carrying messages around the Metropolitan Police District. Increased public unrest over the coming years prompted the expansion of the Mounted Branch to its present day functions – that is, primarily controlling crowds at sporting events or public ceremonies.
The modern day organisation of today's Mounted Branch began in 1919 when Lt Col Laurie, the ex-Commanding officer of the Royal Scots Grey Regiment, became Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police.
From a new training establishment set up by Laurie at Imber Court in Thames Ditton, a new Mounted Branch trained in riding and horse management with new crowd control tactics was born.
To make a donation to The Horse Trust to support police horses in retirement, click here.