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Horses could go to local charity
POLICE horses on the streets of Teesside will be a thing of the past after bosses announced that the mounted section would be disbanded by the end of the financial year.
Cleveland Police Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer had granted the unit a stay of execution after meeting with campaigners who hoped to raise funding of £521,000 a year to maintain it. She agreed to delay the decision to allow money to be raised.
But the deadline of August 31 has now passed, and despite huge public support and a petition, campaigners failed to secure the necessary amount.
Mrs Cheer said: “I fully appreciate the sentiments of the campaigners, and I have met with a number of them to discuss the matter.
“However, with 300 fewer officers I need to deliver a policing service to Cleveland that keeps people safe.
“It is about deploying officers where they are most needed. It is more important for officers to be in neighbourhoods, response or child protection rather than the Mounted Section.
“This is an operational decision which has been scrutinised by the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Police and Crime Panel.”
She said that she was in discussions with a local charity – but would not say which one – with a view to finding homes for the horses as soon as possible. Cleveland Police is understood to have been inundated with offers of homes for the horses from the public.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland Barry Coppinger said: “Operational policing is a matter for the Chief Constable and it is for her to prioritise her resources.
"While a number of people have expressed concern about the Mounted Section going, feedback has also come in from members of the public who have said that retaining the section should not be a priority in this difficult financial climate.”
The decision to axe the Mounted Section comes against a backdrop of austerity cuts of £26m and saves about £88,000 a year. The police officers will be moved to frontline duties, the civilian posts lost and equipment, including the horsebox, sold.
Opponents to the decision raised concerns about crowd control and the relatively low cost of the service compared to the force’s £137m budget.
A campaign group, Save Our Horses, was set up to raise money and protect the mounted section from closure, but it was unsuccessful. It amassed over one thousand signatures on an online petition site and thousands of supporters on a Facebook site.
Mrs Cheer said if horses were needed to help police large events in the future they would be brought in from other forces at a small cost.