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Researchers have measured the value of mounted police units in the UK. They have found that the high visibility of the police horses and riders on neighbourhood patrols boosts levels of public confidence in the police.

In trials, the researchers from the University of Oxford and RAND Europe observed that mounted police units generated around six times more public interest than foot patrols over the same period although most of these interactions were brief (the number of longer conversations was similar for both mounted police and foot patrols). Over half of the residents questioned at one trial site in Gloucestershire, interviewed after the patrols had taken place, said they had noticed mounted units in their area. This was the highest proportion of respondents to report they had noticed mounted units in their neighbourhood.

During the 18-month study, the researchers assessed the impact of mounted units in different roles. The researchers examined public reactions to mounted units on neighbourhood patrols, a music festival, at football matches and public demonstrations. Neighbourhood patrols by pairs of mounted police officers were trialled in three areas in Gloucestershire and London in March 2014. Interviews with police at the start of the project suggested that mounted units were broadly viewed as a resource for crowd control. However, the new research shows that mounted units have substantial value in other scenarios too, particularly in a neighbourhood policing role. Mounted units were found to help build positive relationships with the public, acting as an “ice-breaker” for encouraging greater interaction between police officers and members of the public.

Public surveys also tested whether the mounted unit patrols had an effect on public trust and confidence in the police. The researchers found that the use of mounted patrols had a bolstering effect on trust and confidence in the trial sites, when compared to opinion in three control sites that did not receive mounted patrols. The size of this effect amounted to a greater than 10 percentage point shift in opinion, on some measures.

Read the full story on the University's website

MEDIA COVERAGE