Experiment using mounted police begins to reveal public impact

Early indications from research show a spike in trust in police.

​Police have begun testing public reactions to mounted officers, with early indications showing a spike in police trust.

The College of Policing and Oxford University are carrying out the first national study to examine the value of mounted police.

As part of the study, researchers took officers on horseback to six areas - four in Gloucestershire and two in London - to measure the impact they have. More than 1,000 residents were surveyed in each of the six areas in February, before the mounted officers were put on the streets in March.

In April residents were resurveyed, and early indications show 79 per cent of those who had recently seen mounted police patrols agreed with the statement "the police understand the issues that matter to people in the area in which you live", compared with 69 per cent of those who had not recently seen mounted police.

In another question, 91 per cent of those who had recently seen mounted police patrols agreed with the statement "the police are friendly and approachable", compared with 82 per cent of those who had not recently seem mounted police.

In addition, 80 per cent of respondents who had seen mounted patrols thought their local police were doing an excellent or a good job, compared with 73 per cent of those who had not.

The aim of the study is to allow chief constables and police and crime commissioners to make informed strategic decisions about how to best use mounted police at a tactical and economical level.

There are currently 12 mounted police units across England, Wales and Scotland - down from 17 in January 2012.

The national lead for mounted policing, Deputy Chief Constable Rod Hansen, said the research provides a unique opportunity to gain an evidence-based understanding of the value of mounted policing in the UK.

"Observations of mounted and foot-patrols during the experiment suggested that mounted patrols were noticed by approximately six times as many people as foot patrols," he said.

"The early results suggest the experiment worked, in as much as people noticed the intervention, and seeing mounted police is, in a general sense, associated with higher levels of trust and confidence.

"Seeing police patrol on foot or in cars is associated with higher levels of trust and confidence. However, it looks like mounted police can have an 'additive' effect in a given area, when compared with normal police activity."

The final results from the study will be published in November at Oxford University. The project, called "Making and Breaking Barriers: Assessing the Value of Mounted Police Units in the UK", is being funded by the Economic Social Research Council (ESRC) and supported by us and RAND Europe.

This article appears in the July 2014 edition of our newsletter - why not subscribe?

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