Yorkshire police chiefs have agreed to push ahead with plans to merge the region’s historic mounted detachments into one, mothballing stables and cutting the number of officers.
At a meeting yesterday, the region’s chief constables agreed to prepare a business case for moving Humberside, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire’s mounted units into one location at Carr Gate in Wakefield and reducing the number of officers from 40.
While a final decision is yet to be made, the move now means merging the units is the preferred option, with the name of each individual force set to be removed from the mounted sections.
Police Federations have reacted angrily to yesterday’s decision, claiming it will have an impact on controlling large-scale public disorder as well as wiping out a century of history in a stroke.
Jon Christopher, the chair of West Yorkshire Police Federation whose former Leeds City Police mounted section marks its centenary next year, said: “Mounted sections are a massive part of our heritage and today is a sad day.
“Whether it is South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire or Humberside, somebody is going to suffer from this.
“The fact that there are going to be fewer officers to police the same number of events, common sense says something has to give.
“When you look at the football and rugby teams in these areas, there is a big potential public order situation with any of these games.
“It may not be a cheap option but this is a further erosion of the policing family.
“I’m pretty sure that former mounted officers will be turning in their graves.”
Neil Bowles, chairman of the South Yorkshire Police Federation, said: “Once these are gone, they are gone, and will never come back.
“They are a vital part of our public order policing. I’m sure this will have an impact on that.”
South Yorkshire Police currently has 13 mounted posts based at its stables in Cudworth, near Barnsley, Humberside seven and West Yorkshire 20.
The decision to look at merging the units follows an internal review by all three forces, although the outcome of the Humberside review has not yet been made public.
Dog sections across Yorkshire are also currently under review, with a list of preferred options set to be presented for consideration in the coming months.
The high running costs means there are currently now just 16 police forces in England and Wales that still have a mounted section.
The South Yorkshire mounted unit alone costs an estimated £1m a year to run.
Chief Inspector Jim Haylett, who prepared the options for the possible merger and will now be preparing the business case following yesterday’s meeting, has stressed that a final decision is yet to be made.
“The option put forward is one base instead of three with a smaller number of officers,” he said. But we need to make sure if we do reduce the number that we don’t reduce demand.
“The demand data that we have seen so far suggests that all of our public order demands will still be met by regionalisation.
“There are a number of forces across the country – including some very large ones – that have no mounted units.
“This certainly will not be an issue for public safety.”
A spokeswoman for the Yorkshire and Humber policing team overseeing collaboration in the region, said while the project is about making savings for the forces struggling with 20 per cent cuts to their budgets, this money is being invested in protecting frontline services.