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Better Community Policing through Horses

Researchers in the UK found many benefits to mounted police patrols in neighborhoods.

November 20, 2014

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Police Horses

Police horses are useful for crowd control, but they also improve public trust in the police and help to build positive relationships between officers and the general public. This is according to research from the University of Oxford and RAND Europe.

Researchers analyzed the public response to mounted police units at public demonstrations, soccer games, a music festival and as neighborhood patrols over an 18 month period. The goal of the research was to observe the actions and impacts of mounted police units, to find out how the public perceives mounted police officers and to provide data on the costs and benefits of mounted police work.

Here are some of the key findings of the research:

  • Police horses can be used to assist in crowd-control in ways that no other method can. Observations revealed that when mounted officers were required to intervene at demonstrations, they restored order in ways that officers on foot or in cars wouldn’t be able to do.
  • However, researchers found that mounted police units spend most of their time (60-70 percent) on neighborhood patrols. This goes against the common perception that their primary use is in crowd control (10-20 percent).
  • Police horses on neighborhood patrol can improve levels of trust and confidence in the police force. To determine this, the researchers looked at six different neighborhoods. Public confidence levels were maintained or improved in the three locations where mounted units were deployed for patrol, but dropped in the three neighborhoods that did not receive mounted patrols.
  • Police horses improve public engagement. Mounted police generated six times as many casual engagements with the public as officers on foot did. Casual engagements included such interactions as greetings and brief exchanges.

As in the U.S., some cities have reduced or eliminated their mounted patrols in the U.K. due to budget cuts. Research such as this could help show the value of maintaining police horses as not just a law enforcement tool, but as an agent for improved community relations.

For more information, access the report at rand.org.

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Reader Comments

kygal    rural, KY

11/21/2014 5:06:33 PM

I much rather see a beautiful horse than an ugly car in time of distress

PKL    Northern Part, WY

11/21/2014 9:46:50 AM

Mounted police officers would be great...what kid, no matter the age, (1-99) does not want to pet a horse.

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

11/20/2014 11:58:24 PM

Yay!

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