THE future of mounted police in Britain could be decided by the results of an extensive research programme that has been carried out in Cirencester.
Teams of researchers have been in Cirencester looking at the effectiveness of officers on horseback after it was revealed that five mounted units across the country have been disbanded in the last two years.
Surveys were carried out in the town by officers on foot during February to discover what the public’s perception of the local police force was.
This was then followed up in March by mounted police officers asking people in Cirencester the same set of questions.
Rod Hansen, Deputy Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Police, said it was important to understand the value of police on horseback.
“It does not feel right to lose such a historic and useful capability without fully understanding how sadly it would be missed,” he said.
“We must ensure that the police service does not inadvertently find itself without a capability it relies upon due to the current financial implications.”
Mounted units are often used as a show of force by police at large scale events such as football matches, political rallies and riots.
Nearly 80 per cent of people agreed that local police understand the issues that matter to local people, when asked by an officer on a horse.
However, when the same question was asked by officers on foot, only 69 per cent of people answered positively.
It was also found that 91 per cent of those who had seen mounted patrols agreed with the statement “the police are friendly and approachable”, compared to 82 per cent that had not.
Oxford University’s Dr Chris Giacomantonio, who is managing the project, said the initial findings are encouraging.
“Based on observational data, people are six times more likely to notice mounted police officers than foot patrols and the survey shows that seeing mounted police is consistently associated with higher levels of trust and confidence,” he said.
A similar survey was also carried out in March by the Metropolitan Police in London.
The final results will be presented at an international mounted police conference in November.