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Gloucestershire Business News

Police horses in Gloucestershire under scrutiny

The future of police horses in Gloucestershire is to undergo a long-awaited review.

An independent report into the future of Gloucestershire Constabulary's mounted section has been submitted to the new Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).

The report was undertaken by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC). It describes the controversial unit as a unique resource which adds value to the Constabulary.

But, as well as highlighting its positive role in improving neighbourhood policing, the review also concludes that extra investment is needed to make the horses more cost effective and maximise their potential.

PCC Chris Nelson, elected in May this year, says he will study the report and make a decision based on whether the unit will help him deliver on his election promises to cut crime and reduce anti-social behaviour.

Mr. Nelson said: "I know there are many who are of the opinion that the money devoted to the mounted section could be better-spent elsewhere, but there are at least equal numbers in favour and I have to keep an open mind."

It was, perhaps, one of former Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl's most controversial decisions.

Many opposed the move as being a waste of taxpayer money for an area like Gloucestershire, despite some academic and anecdotal evidence in support of the revival of a police horse section in the county.

Mr Nelson says he is keeping an open mind on the matter. He said: "At first glance, there are pros and cons for both sides of the argument, but I don't believe in making decisions based on knee-jerk reactions. I much prefer to study the data and then reach an informed decision based on the facts.

"There is compelling evidence that horses have a positive role to play in improving neighbourhood policing, which is key to my policy of zero tolerance towards anti-social behaviour. I will be discussing all elements of the report with the Chief Constable to ensure that whatever decision we reach, will help me deliver on the promises I have made in my manifesto".

The report suggests sponsorship and hiring out the mounted police to other forces as two ways of offsetting the running costs.

It's part of a wider assessment of the Constabulary's finances ordered by Chris Nelson with a view to re-allocating funds to help him deliver his election promises.

Included in the wide-ranging study are an examination of the rationale behind the section's revival; the research which underpinned it; its operational capabilities - particularly in the context of cutting crime and reducing anti-social behaviour - as well as how much the section is costing council taxpayers.

A long overdue review of the need for a mounted police section in Gloucestershire is something that

Punchline has argued in the past  that there must be better and more effective ways to spend the precious police budget. Police horses are a luxury Gloucestershire simply cannot afford.

While there are important issues surrounding the way we police the county going forward, Gloucestershire Constabulary doesn't need its own cavalry.

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