Sadness over axing of police horse unit
NOTTS Police's mounted section is to be scrapped.
The Police Authority voted to release the section's officers into other divisions during its annual general meeting at County Hall yesterday.
The decision will save Notts Police around £93,000 a year, raise an extra £20,000 from the sale of horses and release five officers for other roles.
Just four police authority members out of 15 voted to keep the unit.
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Former chairman of the authority John Clarke was one of them. He argued that the horses achieved more than officers alone in terms of crowd control and breaking down the barriers between the public and the police.
Speaking after the meeting, he said: "I'm disappointed with the result and I will continue to campaign. It's waking the public up and they will only notice when they are not there.
"I don't accept the cost-cutting argument because there's been an under-spend of between £2 million and £3 million. The decision has been made too hastily and I think that they will regret it."
The closure of the mounted unit comes as Notts Police look to make savings of £42.3 million. Around 200 police officers and 300 police staff have already been cut from the budget.
Acting Chief Constable Chris Eyre said: "Despite these austere economic conditions, we are determined to do everything we can to protect and enhance front line services to our local communities.
"We have committed to increasing the strength of our local officers by 100 by 2015. This will in part be achieved by shifting officers from other roles into local policing.
"I acknowledge the affection many of our residents have for the police horses. I fully recognise the history of the mounted section and the contribution it has made over many decades to policing. But I have to deliver a service that makes the very best use of very limited resources and make some difficult choices."
However, Gill Harrison said she did not think the decision to cut the mounted unit made financial sense as the force has already made more significant cuts.
She said: "What I'm having difficulty with is that we've made decisions in the past based on millions of pounds and I'm struggling to balance the huge loss this would represent to the public, schoolchildren and crowd control against the relatively small savings this would make."
While other members of the authority said they recognised the value of the horse and the pride and heritage they brought to the force, they said the decision was operational.
As chairman of the authority Jon Collins announced the decision to scrap the unit, he said: "Members of the authority have regretfully taken the very tough decision to disband the mounted section. This is not something that was done lightly but it is a direct result of the unprecedented financial strain we find ourselves in."