Police horses will continue to be on patrol across the county following a decision by Gloucestershire Constabulary to retain its mounted section.
The force embarked on a one year trial in 2016 following independent academic research led by the RAND Institute and the University of Oxford in Gloucestershire two years earlier which showed that horses are a useful tactic.
The trial has been a success, providing an extra dimension to operational policing and an approachable presence in the community.
Mounted patrols have a proven track record in reassuring communities after significant events have affected a community (flooding, critical incidents such as homicides) or more routinely as part of their day to day patrols in neighbourhoods.
They are a cost effective way of managing large crowds (both passive and hostile), avoiding the need for officers on foot, which can generate a therapeutic effect of the crowds helping to prevent panic or violence breaking out.
They are also adept at working in large open areas, for example when searching for vulnerable missing people, often being the only viable asset that can operate on rugged terrain or when fog prevents the police helicopter from taking off.
They are also greatly valued by the public at civic events and ceremonial duties or when foot officers need support policing the vibrant night time economy.
The mounted section will continue to be based at Highnam Court and will consist of four horses, three police officers, an equine manager and a groom.
It will continue to be part of the neighbourhood policing service working alongside other units to enhance the force's crime fighting ability.
The intention is to seek sponsorship for the unit and work towards making it as close to cost neutral as possible.
Some sponsorship has already been received and other donors have indicated a willingness to support it should it become a permanent fixture within the county.
The force will also seek to take up appropriate opportunities for income generation, including through the provision of equine assisted therapy for vulnerable children and adults and mutual aid to other forces needing mounted support.
Chief Constable Rod Hansen said:
"The costs of maintaining a small mounted section are acceptable when off-set against the proven benefits the extra capability brings, not least as part of an integral neighbourhood policing service.
"A key feature of neighbourhood policing is for us to get as close as possible to the communities we serve and we can only do that if we have their support.
"Even in austerity I want a balanced and optimised constabulary that puts the public first. Gloucestershire is the second oldest county force in the country with a fine history that has in the past included a significant mounted capability.
"Whilst we must be pragmatic to our current financial situation, Gloucestershire should continue to deliver policing services in a variety of ways that give us the best chance to connect with our communities. In a county so well known for its equestrian interests why wouldn't we be proud to bring horses back into the mix?
"We have to gain and retain the public's trust not only by providing a professional service at times of crisis but also by being approachable and accessible at all times so that people feel confident in helping us.
"Academic findings have shown that members of the public are six times more likely to engage with officers on horseback than officers on foot offering more opportunities for people to talk to us, and share what they know or suspect.
"That for me was one of the most compelling reasons to retain the section."
The decision to retain the section, made by the force executive board earlier this month, has been supported by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire Martin Surl.
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